The objective of this study was to evaluate the effect of acupuncture on cognitive task performance in college students.
Sixty students aged 18-25 years were randomly allocated into acupuncture group (AG) (n=30) and control group (CG) (n=30). The AG underwent 20 min of acupuncture/day, while the CG underwent their normal routine for 10 days. Assessments were performed before and after the intervention.
Between-group analysis showed a significant increase in AG’s six-letter cancellation test (SLCT) score compared with CG. Within-group analysis showed a significant increase in the scores of all tests (i.e. SLCT, forward and backward Digit span test [DST]) in AG, while a significant increase in backward DST was observed in CG.
The authors concluded that acupuncture has a beneficial effect on improving the cognitive function of college students.
I am unable to access the full paper [it is behind a paywall]. Thus, I am unable to assess the study in further detail. As I am skeptical about the validity of the effect, I can only assume that it is due to the expectation of the volunteers receiving acupuncture. There was not even an attempt to control for placebo effects!
The over-stated conclusion made me wonder what else the 1st author has published. It turns out he has three more Medline-listed papers to his name all of which are about so-called alternative medicine (SCAM).
The 1st one is an RCT similar to the one above, i.e. without an attempt to control for placebo effects. Its conclusion is equally over-stated: Acupuncture could be considered as an effective treatment modality for the management of primary dysmenorrhea.
The other two papers refer to one case report each. Despite the fact that case reports (as any researcher must know) do not lend themselves to conclusions about the effectiveness of the treatments employed, the authors’ conclusions seem to again over-state the case:
- This suggests that integrative Naturopathy and Yoga therapies could be considered as an adjuvant to conventional medicine in rheumatoid arthritis associated with type-2 diabetes and essential hypertension.
- Though the results are encouraging, further studies are required with larger sample size and advanced inflammatory markers.
What does that tell us?
I don’t know about you, but I would not rely on acupuncture to improve my mental performance.