Brain connectivity Patterns Dissociate action of specific Acupressure Treatments in Fatigued Breast cancer survivors

Richard E. Harris*, Eric Ichesco, Chelsea Cummiford, Johnson P. Hampson, Thomas L. Chenevert, Neil Basu, Suzanna M. Zick

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)
10 Downloads (Pure)


Persistent fatigue is a pernicious symptom in many cancer survivors. Existing treatments are limited or ineffective and often lack any underlying biologic rationale. Acupressure is emerging as a promising new intervention for persistent cancer-related fatigue; however, the underlying mechanisms of action are unknown. Our previous investigations suggested that fatigued breast cancer survivors have alterations in brain neurochemistry within the posterior insula and disturbed functional connectivity to the default mode network (DMN), as compared to non-fatigued breast cancer survivors. Here, we investigated if insula and DMN connectivity were modulated by self-administered acupressure by randomizing breast cancer survivors (n = 19) to two distinct treatments: relaxing acupressure or stimulating acupressure. All participants underwent proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy of the posterior insula and functional connectivity magnetic resonance imaging at baseline and immediately following 6 weeks of acupressure self-treatment. As compared to baseline measures, relaxing acupressure decreased posterior insula to dorsolateral prefrontal cortex connectivity, whereas stimulating acupressure enhanced this connectivity (p <0.05 corrected). For relaxing but not stimulating acupressure, reduced connectivity was associated with sleep improvement. In addition, connectivity of the DMN to the superior colliculus was increased with relaxing acupressure and decreased with stimulating acupressure, whereas DMN connectivity to the bilateral pulvinar was increased with stimulating and decreased with relaxing acupressure (p <0.05 corrected). These data suggest that self-administered acupressure at different acupoints has specificity in relation to their mechanisms of action in fatigued breast cancer survivors.

Original languageEnglish
Article number298
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalFrontiers in Neurology
Publication statusPublished - 23 Jun 2017

Bibliographical note

This work was supported by grants R01 CA151445 and 2UL1 TR000433-06 from the National Institutes of Health. The funding source had no role in the design and conduct of the study; collection, management, analysis, and interpretation of the data; preparation, review, or approval of the manuscript; and decision to submit the manuscript for publication. We thank the expert assistance by Dr. Bradley Foerster in acquisition of 1H-MRS and fMRI data.


  • cancer survivors
  • acupressure
  • fatigue
  • connectivity
  • spectroscopy


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