Re-evaluation of using acupuncture needle as sphenoidal electrode in temporal lobe epilepsy

Nai Shin Chu*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal Article peer-review


In 1965, Feng of the Peking Union Hospital published an article entitled "Innovation in electroencephalography: the use of acupuncture needles as sphenoidal electrodes". It was a preliminary report, but surprisingly EEG records in the figures did not show definite spikes or sharp waves in the sphenoidal leads. In 1983, Feng and his colleagues reported a summary of 2,000 cases studied with acupuncture needle sphenoidal electrodes. This time, spikes or sharp waves were shown in EEG recordings. However, cases studied were several "paroxysmal disorders", including psychomotor seizure (155 cases), generalized seizure (765 cases), epileptic cephalgia (101 cases), syncope (104 cases), abdominal epilepsy (24 cases), encephalopathy (135 cases), brain tumor (32 cases), hemiplegia of unknown cause (43 cases), psychosis (34 cases), and others (607 cases). Therefore, there were many unknown cases and many cases that were not related to temporal lobe epilepsy. Surprisingly, the increase in detection by acupuncture needle electrode was higher for hemiplegia of unknown cause, brain tumors, and encephalopathies than for the temporal lobe epilepsy. Furthermore, the issue of no insulation of the acupuncture needle was not addressed. Therefore, we began in 1988 to reinvestigate the usefulness of uninsulated acupuncture needles as sphenoidal electrodes. We also compared the efficacy of anterior temporal electrodes (T1, T2) with those of acupuncture needle and EMG needle. Our results showed that when compared to the routine EEG recordings, acupuncture needle sphenoidal electrodes increased the yield of detecting anterior temporal spikes from 41% to 70%. Our data further showed that when compared to the EMG needle recordings, acupuncture needle recordings had the same detection rate, but the spike amplitude was slightly smaller (129μ ν vs. 135μ ν). Interestingly, we also found that anterior temporal surface electrode recordings were nearly as good as those of acupuncture needle and traditional insulated needle electrodes in the detection of anterior temporal spikes. Our data indicate that acupuncture needle sphenoidal electrode is as effective as the traditional insulated needle sphenoidal electrode in the detection of anterior temporal spikes. We agree with Feng that the use of acupuncture needle is easy, safe, and has minimal discomfort and complications. However, when the use of the acupuncture needle is not acceptable to patients or as in the pediatric group, anterior temporal electrode is an ideal alternative to acupuncture needle sphenoidal electrode.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)137-142
Number of pages6
JournalActa Neurologica Taiwanica
Issue number2
StatePublished - 06 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Acupuncture needle sphenoidal electrode
  • Anterior temporal electrode
  • EEG
  • Temporal lobe epilepsy
  • Traditional sphenoidal electrode


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