Electroacupuncture is a safe and effective method for treating obesity. However, how it modulates reward-related brain activity/functional connectivity and gut hormones remains unclear. We employed resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (RS-fMRI) and resting-state functional connectivity (RSFC) to investigate electroacupuncture induced changes in resting-state activity and RSFC in reward-related regions and its association with gut hormones in overweight/obese subjects who received real (n = 20) and Sham (n = 15) stimulation.
Results showed reduced leptin levels was positively correlated with reduced body mass index (BMI) and negatively correlated with increased cognitive-control as measured with Three-Factor-Eating-Questionnaire (TFEQ). Significant time effects on RSFC between dorsal caudate (DC) and precuneus were due to significant increased RSFC strength in both electroacupuncture and Sham groups.
In addition, increased RSFC of DC-precuneus was negatively correlated with reduced BMI and leptin levels in the electroacupuncture group. Mediation analysis showed that the relationship between increased DC-precuneus RSFC strength and reduced BMI was mediated by reduced leptin levels.
These findings reflect the association between electroacupuncture-induced brain reward-related RSFC and leptin levels, and decreased leptin levels mediated altered DC-precuneus RSFC strength and consequent weight-loss, suggesting the potential role of electroacupuncture in reducing weight and appetite.