Purpose: Mild cognitive impairment is a general neurodegenerative disease. Moxibustion has been shown to have remarkable effect on cognitive improvement, however, less is known about the effect of moxibustion on mild cognitive impairment and its underlying neural mechanism. This study aimed to investigate the ameliorative brain network in mild cognitive impairment after treatments of acupoint-related moxibustion.
Methods: Resting-state functional MRI were derived from 47 mild cognitive impairment patients and 30 healthy controls (HCs). Patients were randomized as Tiaoshen YiZhi (TSYZ, n = 27) and sham (SHAM, n = 20) acupoint moxibustion groups. Functional connectivity density (FCD) method and repeated-measures two-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) were performed to ascertain the interaction effects between groups (TSYZ and SHAM) and time (baseline and post-treatment). Abnormal functional connectivity density was examined between baseline and post-treatment in Tiaoshen YiZhi and SHAM groups, respectively.
Results: Compared with healthy controls, mild cognitive impairment showed altered functional connectivity density in the middle frontal cortex, inferior frontal cortex, temporal pole, thalamus and middle cingulate cortex. After moxibustion treatment in mild cognitive impairment, 1) a significant time-by-groups interaction was observed in the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC); 2) abnormal long-range functional connectivity density (lrFCD) in the mPFC and middle frontal cortex were modulated in Tiaoshen YiZhi group; 3) significantly improved clinical symptoms; 4) changed lrFCD in the middle frontal cortex was significantly negatively correlated with the increased Montreal Cognitive Assessment scores in Tiaoshen YiZhi group.
Conclusions: These imaging findings suggest that treatments of acupoint-related moxibustion could improve lrFCD in certain regions related to self-related cognitive and decision making. Our study might promote understanding of mild cognitive impairment neural mechanisms and expand the clinical application of moxibustion in mild cognitive impairment.