Acupuncture improves low BDNF levels in cancer survivors with insomnia
Acupuncture can increase levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in cancer survivors with insomnia and low baseline BDNF, according to a team of researchers from the USA and Canada. A randomised clinical trial compared acupuncture with cognitive behavioural therapy for insomnia (CBT-I) in 160 cancer survivors, over an eight-week period. The acupuncture protocol consisted of needling standardised acupuncture points classically used to treat insomnia (Shenmen HE-7, Sanyinjiao SP-6, Baihui DU-20, Shenting DU-24, auricular Shenmen and Sympathetic) as well as supplementary points to treat comorbid symptoms (such as psychological distress, fatigue and pain). Needles remained in place for 30 minutes, and participants received a total of 10 acupuncture treatments over eight weeks. Mean serum BDNF did not significantly increase in the acupuncture or CBT-I groups. However, when analysis was restricted to patients with low baseline BDNF, the acupuncture group demonstrated a significant (7.2 ng/mL) increase in mean serum BDNF, whereas the CBT-I group demonstrated a non-significant (2.9 ng/mL) increase. Although decreased BDNF has previously been associated with poor sleep, serum BDNF was not significantly correlated with sleep outcomes in this study.