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E. The Benefits of Acupuncture: All in Your Head?

Narrator: This is Science Today. According to new research, the effects of acupuncture may be all in you head - your brain, that is. John Longhurst of the University of California, Irvine, has shown that acupuncture treatments stimulate the release of opioids in the brain, a specific class of neurotransmitters that reduce excitatory responses in the cardiovascular system.

Longhurst: We have concentrated on a particular area of the brain. It's an area in the medulla, which is part of the brain that's near the spinal cord that is particularly important in regulating the outflow of the sympathetic nerves to the heart and the blood vessels.

Narrator: Opioid neurotransmitters, such as endorphins and enkephalins are released during acupuncture and appear to be responsible for acupuncture's apparent cardiovascular benefits.

Longhurst: They're produced during acupuncture and they can down-regulate or quiet down the activity of the cells in this area of the brain and so that can ultimately influence the sympathetic nerves and the heart and the blood vessels.

Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.