Acupuncture & Science

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Acupuncture & Science

Postby Sungura » Mon Aug 04, 2008 3:08 am UTC

I've just been curious...is there anything scientific behind acupuncture? For example, working with certain nerves or something? I don't want to get a debate started on the validity of "alternative" medicine; I'm simply curious if any research has been done in this area.
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Re: Acupuncture & Science

Postby Sicarius Barritus » Mon Aug 04, 2008 3:58 am UTC

According to a study reported by teh BBC, acupuncture is no more effective than random needling (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/7011738.stm).
So it's just a placebo.

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Re: Acupuncture & Science

Postby yy2bggggs » Mon Aug 04, 2008 4:53 am UTC

Sicarius Barritus wrote:According to a study reported by teh BBC, acupuncture is no more effective than random needling (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/7011738.stm).
So it's just a placebo.

"No more effective than random needling" doesn't imply placebo. Furthermore, single studies are a bad thing to rely on. That having been said, I'm highly skeptical about traditional acupuncture based on its underlying theories--there's no real science I can see behind it.

There is, however, viable science involved in pain blockers being triggered by your brain when your body is damaged, and as such, there's reason to believe acupuncture (and quite possibly "random needling") could trigger this response or similar responses. Since the same effects can be accomplished by placebos, and since acupuncture is a procedure and not a pill, it's a difficult thing to test. I suspect that a cognitive science approach would yield the most insight.
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Re: Acupuncture & Science

Postby evilbeanfiend » Mon Aug 04, 2008 9:56 am UTC

i suspect there probably is some placebo effect. if one had a fourth group in this experiment that received the random needling but with a clear explanation of what the needling was rather than the mystic acupuncture explanation than any difference in response between this group and the 'genuine acupuncture'/'random needling' groups might show a placebo effect.

badscience.net has some stuff on this story plus a lot about placebos in general.
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Re: Acupuncture & Science

Postby JayDee » Mon Aug 04, 2008 10:56 am UTC

I've been rather curious about this ever since I first saw an electronic acupuncture point detector. Press the button and hover it over your skin, it beeps at acupoints. As soon as I saw that, I thought 'there has to be at least some science behind it, if they're making machines.'

Never found much research, though. From memory, that device measured something electrical. Conductivity or somesuch. I also read about experiments where those radioactive dyes were injected into acupoints, and the scans showed the dyes moving along the pathways as per 400 year old diagrams. Controls injected the same depth into random skin didn't move so much.

A google search for 'acupuncture and science' found this article (as the second result, this thread was fourth) which mentions the experiment I remember and quite a few more. They don't provide any reference, though. A JSTOR search for the same thing returned >1000 results, which I might look through later.
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Re: Acupuncture & Science

Postby crowey » Mon Aug 04, 2008 1:28 pm UTC

I've read a few articles that said accupuncture was better than random needling (I can't find them now, I will have a rummage on my home computer tonight).
I've heard a few explainations that don't require magic, I've summarised below:

The accupoints relate to parts of your circulatory/nervous/lymphatic systems, jabbing a needle into that point stimulates a response from your body (i've heard people say both small immune response and the general body healing a very small wound response).

Whether that is enough to have an effect on the nervous/circulatory/lymphatic system to change your health I can't say, similarly it seems odd that (eg) a point on your foot relates to your spleen. :?

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Re: Acupuncture & Science

Postby gmalivuk » Mon Aug 04, 2008 11:20 pm UTC

Being about as good as random needling (I remember hearing about one study that actually had acupuncture come out somewhat worse, so we'll assume they've got about the same effectiveness) doesn't necessarily mean it is or isn't placebo. Part of the effect could be purely placebo, in that it relies on your expectations given the fact that you're being needled. But it might also be a real effect of the whole process.

For instance, acupuncture is usually done in a relaxing environment, with music and insense and what have you. For certain problems, merely encouraging this sort of relaxation could have a therapeutic effect of its own. And there are other problems where the endorphins released by causing pain with the needles has its own therapeutic effect.

What it *does* suggest, however, is that the particular points being needled have little or nothing to do with any effectiveness. In other words, the mythology behind why it's supposed to work (energy and meridians and all that) is probably pretty bunk.
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Re: Acupuncture & Science

Postby Sungura » Wed Aug 06, 2008 12:24 am UTC

Thanks for the thoughts!
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Re: Acupuncture & Science

Postby darren » Wed Aug 06, 2008 8:59 am UTC

Last edited by darren on Tue Sep 09, 2008 12:03 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Acupuncture & Science

Postby hipp5 » Thu Aug 07, 2008 3:01 pm UTC

crowey wrote:Whether that is enough to have an effect on the nervous/circulatory/lymphatic system to change your health I can't say, similarly it seems odd that (eg) a point on your foot relates to your spleen. :?


When I ruptured my spleen it was actually my shoulder that was in a ton of pain. The doctors said that was because there's a nerve that runs up the side of your body from the spleen to the shoulder.

The body is made up of many interconnected systems so I wouldn't be surprised if treatments in one section were able to affect other areas of the body. That being said, I don't know enough about acupuncture to decide whether or not it's a valid treatment.

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Re: Acupuncture & Science

Postby Charlie! » Sun Aug 10, 2008 6:05 pm UTC

darren wrote:It cured the repetitive stress injury in my left upper extremities after 2 sessions. I wasted 5 month (and $5k out of pocket) with MD's and all they could do was prescribe anti-inflammatories, give cortisone shots, take xrays, and ultimately suggest surgery. I went to an accupuncturist/hand therapist on a whim and the pain and numbness went away almost immediately.

Cool. There was also a well-known study where people needing knee surgery instead got "fake" knee surgery, which was just a few incisions and scrapes but not touching the bursa (cushion thing that was being surgured). Their bodies actually healed themselves (on average) to be pretty much like the control group, just because of the body's natural response. So forgive me if I believe that your story isn't about the truth of acupuncture, but rather about how awesome and weird human bodies are.
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Re: Acupuncture & Science

Postby seladore » Sun Aug 10, 2008 9:20 pm UTC

Charlie! wrote:
darren wrote:It cured the repetitive stress injury in my left upper extremities after 2 sessions. I wasted 5 month (and $5k out of pocket) with MD's and all they could do was prescribe anti-inflammatories, give cortisone shots, take xrays, and ultimately suggest surgery. I went to an accupuncturist/hand therapist on a whim and the pain and numbness went away almost immediately.

Cool. There was also a well-known study where people needing knee surgery instead got "fake" knee surgery, which was just a few incisions and scrapes but not touching the bursa (cushion thing that was being surgured). Their bodies actually healed themselves (on average) to be pretty much like the control group, just because of the body's natural response. So forgive me if I believe that your story isn't about the truth of acupuncture, but rather about how awesome and weird human bodies are.


Do you have a citation, that is really interesting.

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Re: Acupuncture & Science

Postby gmalivuk » Wed Sep 24, 2008 3:21 am UTC

It's a study from last year, but I just heard about it last week: Acupuncture does not reduce radiotherapy-induced nausea, but patients believe it does.

Surprise surprise, when a study is actually blinded properly, the supposed chi-related effects of acupuncture vanish entirely.

In a blog, someone wrote:What is really interesting about this study is that it suggests a reason why so many people believe that alternative medicine, be it acupuncture, homeopathy, or whatever, works for them, even in the absence of any real objective evidence that it does anything. Here we have two groups of patients, one of which received "real" acupuncture and one did not, but who were truly blinded to which group they were in. Even though there was no objectively-measurable difference in the intensity or duration of chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting among the groups, the overwhelming majority of both groups thought acupuncture helped them and would like to use it again.
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Re: Acupuncture & Science

Postby nilkemorya » Wed Sep 24, 2008 10:38 pm UTC

That's one of the good signs that something is a pseudoscience instead of a science, reliance on testimonials instead of scientific results. Also in those categories are: Resistance to traditional scientific methods like peer review, cherry picking results, and many more! :D
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Re: Acupuncture & Science

Postby Bassoon » Thu Sep 25, 2008 1:29 am UTC

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Re: Acupuncture & Science

Postby drunken » Thu Jun 07, 2012 5:37 pm UTC

I know that raging debates about acupuncture frequently pop up here, and when I saw this article I thought I would necro the relevant thread and start another shitstorm.

Usually the argument runs like:
"There is no evidence that acupuncture works therefore it doesn't"
"but this study showed something"
"that is just the placebo effect"

Double blinding has always been an issue (ie. impossible) with acupuncture so that was pretty much a stalemate. I don't see any way to argue placebo effect with rats though so I will be interested to see where this goes.
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Re: Acupuncture & Science

Postby Xanthir » Thu Jun 07, 2012 6:27 pm UTC

Double-blinding is *not* impossible with acupuncture, it's just non-trivial.

Start with some people who know nothing about acupuncture. Get actual acupuncturists to teach them how to insert the needles, without teaching them about placement. Then have the acupuncturists draw up two placement plans - one that they think should work, and one which they don't think will work but that looks plausible to someone who's not an acupuncturist.

Then, do the study. Get some patients in, and give the first group of people either the "real" or "fake" plan randomly to perform on the patients. Bam, double-blind acupuncture study. You can even "waste" a few trials by having acupuncturists observe the practitioners and make sure that they're doing things correctly.
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Re: Acupuncture & Science

Postby drunken » Thu Jun 07, 2012 6:45 pm UTC

Interesting idea, has this been done?
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Re: Acupuncture & Science

Postby gmalivuk » Thu Jun 07, 2012 6:47 pm UTC

Yeah, there have been various kinds of blinding for acupuncture studies, and all of them result in no significant differences between "real" and "sham" acupuncture. Which means that, whatever effects acupuncture does have, they don't depend on needle placement or on whether the skin is actually punctured (since one such study I know of involves needle housings that may or may not retract the needle under pressure, but there's still a poke so neither the patient nor the practitioner knew whether the needle actually went in).
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Re: Acupuncture & Science

Postby drunken » Thu Jun 07, 2012 9:41 pm UTC

Yeah I heard about that study too. So what do you think about the rats?
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Re: Acupuncture & Science

Postby gmalivuk » Thu Jun 07, 2012 10:15 pm UTC

I think that their neglecting to mention what happened with the sham acupuncture group pretty much renders that report worthless.
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Re: Acupuncture & Science

Postby mercutio_stencil » Fri Jun 08, 2012 6:08 am UTC

gmalivuk wrote:Yeah, there have been various kinds of blinding for acupuncture studies, and all of them result in no significant differences between "real" and "sham" acupuncture. Which means that, whatever effects acupuncture does have, they don't depend on needle placement or on whether the skin is actually punctured (since one such study I know of involves needle housings that may or may not retract the needle under pressure, but there's still a poke so neither the patient nor the practitioner knew whether the needle actually went in).


I'm to tired to track down all my citations, but acupuncture is real, in a sense. Patients who receive 'real' acupuncture, that is to say, needles placed in the chi-spots by skilled practitioners do better than patients who have needles placed in random locations. However, this effect vanishes when the practitioner is blinded. With GMA's sheathed needle example, both patients who actually got stabbed and those who didn't reported the same positive effects.

What it comes down to, if I remember the conclusion, is that acupuncture is real, but it's the empathic practitioner that makes it real, nothing to do with chi flow or that stuff. Same reason a lot of other pseudo (or non) scientific practices have real results. I guess it's related to the placebo effect.

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Re: Acupuncture & Science

Postby eSOANEM » Fri Jun 08, 2012 8:18 am UTC

mercutio_stencil wrote:I guess it's related to the placebo effect.


Nope, just a straight up placebo.

Given the fact that red placebos are more effective than blue placebos and injections are more effective than either, clearly the method of delivery affects the strength of the placebo response. Given the mechanism involved in the placebo effect, it seems obvious that the manner of the person administering the "treatment" will have an affect on its strength.

Fun fact about placebos: there is still a beneficial affect to giving people a sugar pill over doing nothing even if the person giving them it explains that it's a placebo and contains no active ingredients and so it's effects are purely psychosomatic. That's pretty cool.
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Re: Acupuncture & Science

Postby drunken » Fri Jun 08, 2012 12:48 pm UTC

eSOANEM wrote:
mercutio_stencil wrote:I guess it's related to the placebo effect.


Nope, just a straight up placebo.



Yes that is the most likely hypothesis, but stating it in such a matter of fact way is presenting an hypothesis as fact, which it is not. This is a science forum you need to be careful about how you frame things.

gmalivuk wrote:I think that their neglecting to mention what happened with the sham acupuncture group pretty much renders that report worthless.


The omission does seem a bit suspect. I used to post here under the assumption that real scientists read these forums and had access to the full journals for these types of studies. I used to hope for such things as someone posting what happened with the sham group. But I was always disappointed so I no longer expect that. Nevertheless the study is interesting either way. If the sham group showed some level of reduction in the protein, then this would suggest that electroacupuncture needles have some stress relieving effect, regardless of where you stick them. That is also an interesting result. A user on another forum pointed out that there is no proven correlation between this protein and actual physiological stress symptoms though, which would make the findings a lot less useful.

Also as I mentioned earlier, the placebo effect is pretty hard to hypothesise in rats, as it assumes some knowledge of the treatment and the illness and their connection. You could ascribe such knowledge to rats as they are intelligent animals, but I think it is a stretch. The study doesn't mention a double blind, I think the scientists knew whether or not the rats were getting the correct procedure, but again the mental attitude of the scientists and its effect on the rats' belief that they are going to be less stressed as a result of the treatment seems like a pretty unlikely conclusion. It could be the placebo effect, our limited knowledge of the neurological and psychological mechanisms involved means prevents us from ruling it out, but it doesn't seem like the most likely conclusion.
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Re: Acupuncture & Science

Postby gmalivuk » Fri Jun 08, 2012 1:28 pm UTC

drunken wrote:the placebo effect is pretty hard to hypothesise in rats, as it assumes some knowledge of the treatment and the illness and their connection. You could ascribe such knowledge to rats as they are intelligent animals, but I think it is a stretch.
No, it need not assume anything at all about the rats. Placebo effects don't only come from the understanding that a treatment is being provided. Keeping an animal in a warm place and petting it occasionally will probably improve medical outcomes, without positing any "knowledge" on the part of the animal.

Sure, we'd expect differences between how rats react to a given placebo and how people do (e.g. I'd expect rats to respond to injections more negatively, since they involve pain without any corresponding belief that injected drugs are more effective), but that doesn't in any way reduce the importance of using a placebo control in every type of clinical trial.
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Re: Acupuncture & Science

Postby eSOANEM » Fri Jun 08, 2012 2:00 pm UTC

drunken wrote:
eSOANEM wrote:
mercutio_stencil wrote:I guess it's related to the placebo effect.


Nope, just a straight up placebo.



Yes that is the most likely hypothesis, but stating it in such a matter of fact way is presenting an hypothesis as fact, which it is not. This is a science forum you need to be careful about how you frame things.


The fact that, when the practicioner is blinded, the fake-acupuncture is as effective as the genuine shows that the location of the points is irrelevant to the result. It is possible the needles themselves have an effect and it would be interesting to see a study comparing genuine and fake acupuncture needles' effectiveness, but until then, it is quite reasonable to assume that acupuncture has no genuine (by which I mean non-placebo) benefit. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence and all that jazz.
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Re: Acupuncture & Science

Postby drunken » Fri Jun 08, 2012 4:18 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:Sure, we'd expect differences between how rats react to a given placebo and how people do (e.g. I'd expect rats to respond to injections more negatively, since they involve pain without any corresponding belief that injected drugs are more effective), but that doesn't in any way reduce the importance of using a placebo control in every type of clinical trial.


I was talking about rats being stuck with electrified needles to reduce their stress. Your comment is correct in general but not in this context.

eSOANEM wrote:Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence and all that jazz.


I have always wondered how people who use this as an argument define extraordinary. Perhaps you could enlighten me? I of course need a quantifiable scientific definition. The standard dictionary definition: "ex·traor·di·nar·y /ikˈstrôrdnˌerē/ Adjective: Very unusual or remarkable. Unusually great." does not really help me evaluate any specific claims.
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Re: Acupuncture & Science

Postby gmalivuk » Fri Jun 08, 2012 4:32 pm UTC

drunken wrote:
gmalivuk wrote:Sure, we'd expect differences between how rats react to a given placebo and how people do (e.g. I'd expect rats to respond to injections more negatively, since they involve pain without any corresponding belief that injected drugs are more effective), but that doesn't in any way reduce the importance of using a placebo control in every type of clinical trial.
I was talking about rats being stuck with electrified needles to reduce their stress. Your comment is correct in general but not in this context.
How do you figure? My comment is that we should placebo-control rat studies just as we do human studies, for essentially the same reason. (In this example, the sham acupuncture is included to evaluate whether the effect comes from e.g. a general response to any kind of sharp pain versus a specific response to pain at the acupuncture point.)

I have always wondered how people who use this as an argument define extraordinary. Perhaps you could enlighten me? I of course need a quantifiable scientific definition. The standard dictionary definition...does not really help me evaluate any specific claims.
What's confusing? A claim is extraordinary if, in the context of what else we know about science it seems unusual or unlikely.

Basically, the evidence supporting a claim needs to be on par with the prior evidence against it.
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Re: Acupuncture & Science

Postby drunken » Fri Jun 08, 2012 4:51 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:My comment is that we should placebo-control rat studies just as we do human studies, for essentially the same reason. (In this example, the sham acupuncture is included to evaluate whether the effect comes from e.g. a general response to any kind of sharp pain versus a specific response to pain at the acupuncture point.)

I just thought that was a given, and assumed you were implying something else. It was part of a response chain originating with my comment that arguments about the placebo effect are not especially useful in this particular experiment, as it is hard to imagine that there is any placebo effect occurring from needles being stuck into rats. I apologise for missing your point.

gmalivuk wrote:
I have always wondered how people who use this as an argument define extraordinary. Perhaps you could enlighten me? I of course need a quantifiable scientific definition. The standard dictionary definition...does not really help me evaluate any specific claims.
What's confusing? A claim is extraordinary if, in the context of what else we know about science it seems unusual or unlikely.

Basically, the evidence supporting a claim needs to be on par with the prior evidence against it.


I was more referring to the means I should use to ascertain which claims are extraordinary and to what degree, and how to independently measure whether the evidence has a corresponding degree of extraordinaryness (is this a word?). It seems like a subjective measure to me, and there are many claims which I have taken as seeming fairly ordinary, where people use this "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence" nonsense to refute them. Conversely there are some claims that I find quite extraordinary, that most people seem to simply accept as reality.
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Re: Acupuncture & Science

Postby gmalivuk » Fri Jun 08, 2012 4:56 pm UTC

drunken wrote:it is hard to imagine that there is any placebo effect occurring from needles being stuck into rats
But I think there is such an effect, because rats have neurological pain reactions, just as humans do.
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Re: Acupuncture & Science

Postby drunken » Fri Jun 08, 2012 5:04 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:
drunken wrote:it is hard to imagine that there is any placebo effect occurring from needles being stuck into rats
But I think there is such an effect, because rats have neurological pain reactions, just as humans do.


And pain is proven to cause stress.
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Re: Acupuncture & Science

Postby gmalivuk » Fri Jun 08, 2012 5:12 pm UTC

What on earth is your point?

When we talk about the placebo effect in medical research, we don't literally mean things that feel good but aren't officially part of the treatment. We mean *everything* that might have an impact on the outcome but that isn't what we're actually trying to test. So if we're trying to test proper acupuncture (i.e. in the correct locations on the body) for stress reduction, we need a control group with exactly the same experience, except that they're not getting proper acupuncture.

The pain response itself undoubtedly has a physiological effect, but it *isn't* what acupuncture's supposed to be about. Therefore, to test acupuncture, the control group needs to also get the physiological effects of pain, but not through properly placed acupuncture needles.
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Re: Acupuncture & Science

Postby Angua » Fri Jun 08, 2012 5:28 pm UTC

I went to a lecture once where the guy pointed out that a lot of the placebo effects from the 'double blind' studies on depression meds actually were pretty significant - the people running the study often forget that if you're just using a sugar pill as the placebo, the presence of sideeffects (or lack thereof) can tip people off (mainly subconsciously) to the fact that they're on or off the actual medication.

Also, people starting clinical trials generally get a slight bump at the beginning of the trial - just to the pyschological effects of being in the trial, even if you don't change their medication from what they're generally on.
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Re: Acupuncture & Science

Postby drunken » Fri Jun 08, 2012 5:33 pm UTC

My point was that is seems extremely unlikely to me that the insertion of needles into rats could cause them to experience a reduction in externally caused stress, as a result of the placebo effect. You might even say I find the claim to be extraordinary ;-) My extraordometer is reading 75.8, which is well above background extraordinarity. I was also trying to prod someone into giving me an alternative explanation as to why this study might be bunk without referring to the placebo effect.

Now I remember why I used to love arguing here, and also why I stopped.

Just a disclaimer: I have no stake in acupuncture. I don't care if it is real or fake. I am curious about whether it is real or fake, but I have no interest in seeing the result go either way. I may be guilty of arguing for the sake of the argument (I don't think I am alone in this). I was once told that my claiming to be curious about a particular piece of information was an extraordinary claim, and since then I have had little patience for those that try to bring extraordinocity into a scientific debate as though it was a relevant factor. I am aware that it was not the same person who I am now arguing with that brought it up here, and my beef is with him and not with you.

My beef is however also with people who cling so tenaciously to dogmatic beliefs about the fundamental objectiveness of the world and of their own personal foundations of thought that they forget that all of human existence is fundamentally and inescapably subjective, and that no human has ever had an objective thought or experience in all of history. This is why I post on threads about fringe/pseudo sciences, not because I agree with or like the plague of charlatanism and quackery that pervades much of society, but because I think that the plague of scientific arrogance and narrow mindedness that pervades modern science is of far more consequence. End Rant.

I apologise for this post's derailment of the thread, but then again I doubt anyone on xkcd:science really cares about the acupuncture thread.

Edit in response to edit: I never claimed that the placebo effect should not be controlled for in rats, I merely claimed that it is unlikely to be responsible for the findings of this particular study. Of course everything that it is possible to control for should be controlled for.
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Re: Acupuncture & Science

Postby gmalivuk » Fri Jun 08, 2012 5:51 pm UTC

drunken wrote:it seems extremely unlikely to me that the insertion of needles into rats could cause them to experience a reduction in externally caused stress
Who cares what seems unlikely to you? The whole point is we don't have to worry about the effect of pain on stress, because both groups experience pain, and we can thus isolate effects from the thing that's different between them, namely the location of said pain.

Incidentally, though, pain causes pain-fighting endorphins to be released, which could conceivably reduce stress.

it is unlikely to be responsible for the findings of this particular study.
We can't evaluate that, because they didn't tell us what happened with the sham control.
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Re: Acupuncture & Science

Postby eSOANEM » Fri Jun 08, 2012 6:05 pm UTC

drunken wrote:I have always wondered how people who use this as an argument define extraordinary. Perhaps you could enlighten me? I of course need a quantifiable scientific definition. The standard dictionary definition: "ex·traor·di·nar·y /ikˈstrôrdnˌerē/ Adjective: Very unusual or remarkable. Unusually great." does not really help me evaluate any specific claims.


Yes it is subjective (at least in determining which claims are extraordinary) but that doesn't mean it's unscientific. If you want, you can think of it as a slight variation on Occam's razor more akin to Newton's statement that "We are to admit no more causes of natural things than such as are both true and sufficient to explain their appearances.". It follows that, if a phenomenon is explainable by some known mechanism or by some unknown and otherwise unobserved mechanism, it is better to, until the second mechanism is substantiated, assume that the first mechanism is the correct one.

In this example. To say that acupuncture is purely a placebo requires no new stress-relieving mechanisms to be introduced to our understanding relying solely on the well-established placebo effect. Saying that acupuncture is beneficial per se requires a new mechanism be introduced whereby certain types of stabbing with certain types of needles can help relieve stress.

That acupuncture is genuine would therefore require us to admit an additional cause as true beyond what is sufficient to explain the effects of acupuncture and so is, in the abscence of evidence to the contrary, a worse explanation.

drunken wrote:My point was that is seems extremely unlikely to me that the insertion of needles into rats could cause them to experience a reduction in externally caused stress, as a result of the placebo effect. You might even say I find the claim to be extraordinary ;-) My extraordometer is reading 75.8, which is well above background extraordinarity. I was also trying to prod someone into giving me an alternative explanation as to why this study might be bunk without referring to the placebo effect.


The rats study certainly is interesting however, looking up the journal in question it strikes me that the two articles there about the affects of acupuncture on stress both use electro-acupuncture. It seems to me quite likely that the effect would not be observed (or at least, be significantly reduced) with traditional needles and, whilst interesting, is simply the needle electrically stimulating a certain nerve which gives a beneficial response and therefore the point itself has no particular importance and anywhere along the length of the nerve would work. But then, IANABiologist.

Alternatively, it seems even more plausible to me that the beneficial effect was due to them being held by the researcher they'd become accustomed to and being almost petted. The reason the sham-acupuncture rats did not see a beneficial effect could be due to the fact that they received acupuncture around the base of the taile which is of course close to the sensitive anus and genitals and so, I imagine, being poked there would produce a substantial increase in stress which would counteract the beneficial effects of the petting. I would not think that this study is sufficient to show a beneficial effect from electro-acupuncture until the study is repeated with the sham-acupuncture rats receiving their acupuncture in multiple locations (although, obviously, with multiple groups for each location) and with an additional group who were stressed, then taken out by the researcher, held as if to be given acupuncture, not stabbed and then put back. Again though, IANAB.

Furthermore, I'm not entirely sure how they translated human acupuncture points onto a rat because I'm sure there are many ways you could do it which would result in a certain spot being in different parts of the rat.

drunken wrote:My beef is however also with people who cling so tenaciously to dogmatic beliefs about the fundamental objectiveness of the world and of their own personal foundations of thought that they forget that all of human existence is fundamentally and inescapably subjective, and that no human has ever had an objective thought or experience in all of history. This is why I post on threads about fringe/pseudo sciences, not because I agree with or like the plague of charlatanism and quackery that pervades much of society, but because I think that the plague of scientific arrogance and narrow mindedness that pervades modern science is of far more consequence. End Rant.


Science is about trying to find the objective truth of the universe but no good scientist believes they have that truth.

As for narrow mindedness, that's probably just good old fashioned scepticism. Science has two main rules: believe your evidence (caveats about checking it, repeating it etc. go here), believe nothing without evidence. If scientists or scientifically-minded people come across as closed-minded, it's probably just that second rule kicking in and, because there isn't/they haven't seen any evidence for it, they don't believe it.

...

Edit: My second section on explaining the rats is all based on the situation if they did not also improve. If they did improve, it's either the being electrocuted or the being stabbed which reduces stress in the rats and gmal has proposed a known mechanism whereby that could happen. Sadly, the full text is behind a paywall so I can't see their data on the sham-acupuncture rats.
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Re: Acupuncture & Science

Postby drunken » Fri Jun 08, 2012 6:12 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:Who cares what seems unlikely to you?


Good to see you agree with me on the whole extraordinary claims front.

gmalivuk wrote:The whole point is we don't have to worry about the effect of pain on stress, because both groups experience pain, and we can thus isolate effects from the thing that's different between them, namely the location of said pain.

Incidentally, though, pain causes pain-fighting endorphins to be released, which could conceivably reduce stress.

Congratulations, an explanation that doesn't involve the placebo effect.

gmalivuk wrote:
it is unlikely to be responsible for the findings of this particular study.
We can't evaluate that, because they didn't tell us what happened with the sham control.


For the hat-trick.

The only way you could top that off now is by finding the actual study itself, and showing that the sham group did in fact show a reduction in the stress related protein, thus proving once and for all that your speculation is superior to mine.

Ahh there is nothing like the back and forth of internet debate, the post and counter post, the clang of wit on wit. Thank you for indulging my boredom, may it give you the same pleasure it gives me.

So to continue the conversation, acupuncture doesn't cause pain if done properly, in fact if it is done by a really experienced acupuncturist, you can't feel it at all. Yes I know this fact has no bearing on the current debate, but it is an interesting aside.
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Re: Acupuncture & Science

Postby eSOANEM » Fri Jun 08, 2012 10:15 pm UTC

drunken wrote:
gmalivuk wrote:
it is unlikely to be responsible for the findings of this particular study.
We can't evaluate that, because they didn't tell us what happened with the sham control.


For the hat-trick.

The only way you could top that off now is by finding the actual study itself, and showing that the sham group did in fact show a reduction in the stress related protein, thus proving once and for all that your speculation is superior to mine.


The study is not hard to find. The article you cited says which journal it was published in, a quick google search finds their site which has a searchable archive. Unfortunately the main text of the paper is behind a paywall. The abstract however, like the article, does not mention the effect on the sham-acupuncture group so, without subscribing to a journal in a field I am not particularly interested in, I (or gmalivuk, you or anyone else in this thread) have no way of finding the data.
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Re: Acupuncture & Science

Postby gmalivuk » Fri Jun 08, 2012 11:26 pm UTC

drunken wrote:
gmalivuk wrote:Who cares what seems unlikely to you?
Good to see you agree with me on the whole extraordinary claims front.
No, my point was that no one's expecting you to believe *anything* in particular about the effects of pain on stress. There's no actual extraordinary claim being made on that front. They are removing the need to make any such claim by ensuring that both groups of rats feel the same amount of pain.

gmalivuk wrote:Incidentally, though, pain causes pain-fighting endorphins to be released, which could conceivably reduce stress.
Congratulations, an explanation that doesn't involve the placebo effect.
Right...

Before we continue this discussion, please explain, in your own words, what exactly you think "the placebo effect" is. Because that response suggests your understanding of it and my understanding of it are not particularly similar.
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Re: Acupuncture & Science

Postby ahammel » Fri Jun 08, 2012 11:48 pm UTC

Immediately after the treatment, the real acupuncture group had lower NPY levels than the sham acupuncture group. After ten days, they were both the same, and both were lower than the no-treatment group.
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