A new study has shown that an ancient form of complementary medicine may be effective in helping to treat people with mild traumatic brain injury.
The study involved a treatment known as acupressure in which one's fingertips are used to stimulate particular points on a person's body - points similar to those stimulated with needles in standard acupuncture treatments, said University of Colorado Boulder Professor Theresa Hernandez and lead author.
The results indicate a link between the acupressure treatments and enhanced cognitive function in study subjects with mild traumatic brain injury, or TBI.
The acupressure treatment type used in the study is called Jin Shin.
For the study, Hernandez and her colleagues targeted the 26 points on the human body used in standard Jin Shin treatments ranging from the head to the feet. The study subjects all received treatments by trained Jin Shin practitioners.
According to practitioners, Jin Shin acupressure points are found along "meridians" running through the body that are associated with specific energy pathways. It is believed that each point is tied to the health of specific body organs, as well as the entire body and brain, Hernandez said.
The study involved 38 study subjects, each of whom was randomly assigned to one of two groups - an experimental group that received active acupressure treatments from trained experts and a control group that received treatments from the same experts on places on the body that are not considered to be acupressure points, acting as a placebo.
The team used a standard battery of neuropsychological tests to assess the results.
In one test known as the Digit Span Test, subjects were asked to repeat strings of numbers after hearing them, in both forward and backward order, to see how many digits they could recall. Those subjects receiving active acupressure treatments showed increased memory function, said Hernandez.
A second standard psychology test used for the study, called the Stroop Task, measured working memory and attention.
The test subjects were shown the names of colors like blue, green or red on a computer screen. When the names of the particular colors are viewed on the screen in a different color of ink - like the word "green" spelled out in blue ink - test subjects take longer to name the ink color and the results are more error-prone, according to Hernandez.
The Stroop Test subjects in the CU-Boulder study wore special caps wired with electrodes to measure the brain activity tied to specific stimuli. The results showed those who received the active acupressure treatments responded to stimuli more rapidly than those who received the placebo treatments, Hernandez said.
The study was published in the January issue of the Journal of Neurotrauma.