Improved methods for electroacupuncture and electromyographic recordings in normal and parkinsonian rhesus monkeys

Feng Zhao, Xiaotong Fan, Richard Grondin, Ramsey Edwards, Eric Forman, Jennifer Moorehead, Greg Gerhardt, Xiaomin Wang, Zhiming Zhang
Journal of Neuroscience Methods 2010 October 15, 192 (2): 199-206
Although acupuncture has been widely and routinely used in healthcare in the USA, its use has been based more on empirical observation than on scientific knowledge. Therefore, there is a great need for better understanding the underlying mechanism(s) of action. A great body of evidence supports that nonhuman primates are a candidate for studying human diseases. However, the use of nonhuman primates in neurophysiological, neuroimaging and neurochemical studies is extremely challenging, especially under fully conscious, alert conditions. In the present study, we developed a protocol for safely performing acupuncture, electroacupuncture (EA) and electromyography (EMG) in both normal nonhuman primates and animals with parkinsonian-like symptoms. Four normal and four hemiparkinsonian middle-aged rhesus monkeys were extensively trained, behaviorally monitored, and received both EA and EMG for several months. The results demonstrated that (1) all rhesus monkeys used in the study could be trained for procedures including EA and EMG; (2) all animals tolerated the procedures involving needle/electrode insertion; (3) EA procedures used in the study did not adversely alter the animal's locomotor activities; rather, MPTP-treated animals showed a significant improvement in movement speed; and (4) EMG detected significant differences in muscle activity between the arms with and without MPTP-induced rigidity. Our results support that rhesus monkeys can be used as an experimental animal model to study EA and that EMG has the potential to be used to objectively assess the effects of antiparkinsonian therapies. The results also indicate that animals, especially those with parkinsonian-like symptoms, could benefit from long-term EA stimulations.

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