Mouse ache

Nature Neuroscience are about to publish a study that attempts to explain the biological basis of mouse acupuncture. If you’re checking in case you have accidentally slipped between universes, don’t worry, you haven’t. It’s just that this one has gone a bit strange.

The full paper is not out until later today and will eventually appear here, so I will reserve my full judgement (because, you never know, mouse acupuncture might be the next cure for cancer) but Not Exactly Rocket Science has read the paper and has a report of the bizarre study.

Apparently, it attempts to show a ‘biological basis’ for acupuncture by putting needles into mice at ‘traditional acupuncture points’ and then looks at the biochemical effects, particularly the release of a chemical called adenosine and riffs on the apparent ‘pain relieving effects’ from there.

The trouble is, no-one has reliably shown that acupuncture is more effective than placebo, and secondly, the Nature Neuroscience study itself apparently had no control condition, so you can’t even tell whether the effect in this study was specifically due to ‘acupuncture’ or not.

Just in case Ed at Not Exactly Rocket Science has got it completely wrong, I’ll have whatever he’s smoking, and if he hasn’t, I’ll have whatever they’re smoking in the Nature Neuroscience office.

Link to Not Exactly Rocket Science coverage.
Link where paper will eventually appear.

4 thoughts on “Mouse ache”

  1. Obviously, alternative therapy is mostly for people whom lost faith in orthodox medicine (I suppose that includes clinical psychology/ psychiatry). And by reading your post I lose even more trust for orthodox science or its representation like you post.
    Didn’t most theories for orthodox science or medicine has a animal model? Why don’t I see you blogging pages like Pavlov’s dog nerves pathway?

  2. Good one for the series I’m amassing of making animals suffer for woo – not that I approve of making them suffer for “mainline” science, either, but that’s another story.
    So many people think “alternatives” don’t involve animal suffering, but not so – have a look at the skeptvet blog (under “Holistic means whatever…” comments section for just a few of the more egregious.

  3. The full paper is available for free download now:
    It does not seem that it actually tests acupuncture at all. Instead, as far as I can see, the experimenters just used acupuncture needles to hurt mice in a controlled way, thereby causing the already-well-known biochemical changes that dull pain for a time after a sharply painful stimulus.
    (Before this, the paper sounds off about unfair Western denigration of ancient Chinese wisdom, just like all those other Chinese studies of acupuncture all the way back to when they were governmentally required to say how cool Communism was every ten words. See also the numerous studies of Glorious Soviet People’s Medicine, whose results were similarly difficult for the running-dog capitalists at Western universities to reproduce.)
    Unless I’m missing something – and I may be, ‘cos the full study runs WAY over my syllable limit for this time of night – acupuncture is not meant to hurt. Acupuncture’s effects are also meant to last longer than the period of somewhat-dulled-pain and neurochemical excitement you get from, for instance, whacking your thumb with a hammer.
    The Science-Based Medicine blog has a post about the paper here:

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