The electrophysiology of De Qi sensations

Albert Y. Leung, Jun Park, Gery Schulteis, Jeng Ren Duann, Tony Yaksh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Objective: The objective was to investigate the effect of three different modes of stimulation on: (1) the electrical conductance of a known acupuncture point (AP) and a point with no known acupuncture function (NP); and (2) the corresponding characteristicvs of de qi sensations. Design: The design was prospective. Settings and Locations: Healthy subjects were recruited for the study at the University of California, San Diego Medical Center. Subjects and Study Interventions: Fifteen subjects were enrolled. Two locations of the subjects' nondominant hand were marked: (1) AP (Li4); and (2) NP, a control location with no known acupuncture function. The following different stimulation paradigms were applied to the testing sites in a randomized fashion: (1) transcutaneous electrical stimulation via an ECG electrode; (2) manual stimulation via an acupuncture needle; and (3) electrical stimulation via an acupuncture needle. All electrical stimulation was provided at 12V and 5 Hz for 30 seconds. Outcome Measures: The conductance before and after each stimulation were measured. The subjects were asked to choose four most predominant descriptors of the de qi sensation after the stimulation and to rate the corresponding intensity on a linear VAS. Results: The conductance values at the AP site are generally a bit higher than conductance values at the NP site for each given stimulation type. The de qi VAS score increased significantly after needle electrical stimulation (EA) in comparison to electrode or manual stimulation at both sites. The most predominant (incidence >30%) de qi sensation with electrical stimulation in either electrode or needle electrical stimulation was tingling, whereas in the manual stimulation, aching was the most predominant sensation of de qi. Conclusions: The de qi sensation appears to be qualitatively and quantitatively different between manual and electrical stimulation. The observed difference in transcutaneous electrical conductance between the AP and NP sites further suggests a unique intrinsic neuronal makeup of an acupuncture point.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)743-750
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine
Issue number8
StatePublished - Oct 2006


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