The effect of electroacupuncture (EA) is affected by both the acupuncture point selection and the frequency of stimulation. However, little is known regarding acupuncture point and simulation frequency selection. Neuronal activation of the nucleus of the solitary tract (NTS) is one of the important targets of EA for modulating gastrointestinal function. This study investigated the effects of various combinations of EA frequencies and acupuncture points on NTS neurons.
Rats were randomly divided into normal, 2 Hz EA, 100 Hz EA and the alternate 2/100 Hz EA groups. Then rats in each group were randomly divided into the following two subgroups according to the acupuncture point: ST 36 group and ST 25 group. All the rats underwent electrode implantation surgery. Rats in all EA groups received one treatment with EA (a constant square wave at, 2 Hz,100 Hz or 2/100 Hz frequencies with intensities ranging from 1 to 2 mA), and NTS neuronal activation was recorded before and after EA treatment. Finally, to confirm the effect of EA on the NTS, minimal acupuncture was administered and its effect on NTS was detected.
ST 36 stimulated with 2 Hz EA significantly increased the population of excited NTS neurons and spike frequency. However, ST 36 stimulated with 100 Hz or 2/100 Hz EA produced only a transient effect on the activity of NTS neurons and did not induce any effect on the spike frequency. Furthermore, the excitatory effect of 100 Hz or 2/100 Hz EA on NTS neurons in the ST 36 group was lower than 2 Hz EA at the same point. When applied to ST 25, 2 Hz EA had no significant excitatory effect on NTS neurons or spike frequency. However, 100 Hz EA or 2/100 Hz EA at ST 25 decreased both NTS neuronal excitability and spike frequency. By comparing the effects of different EA combinations, it was shown 2 Hz EA applied to ST 36 had the strongest excitatory effect on NTS neurons, while 100 Hz EA applied to ST 25 had the greatest inhibitory effect. Minimal acupuncture stimulation produced no effect on NTS neurons.
EA’s effects on NTS were mainly affected by the acupuncture point selection, but the frequency of EA also played a role. Different combinations of acupuncture points and frequency selection may lead to different EA effects on NTS neuronal excitability.