†These authors contributed equally.
Academic Editor: Hongmin Wang
Background: This study aimed to investigate the effects of electroacupuncture (EA) treatment at Zusanli (ST36) and Quchi (LI11) on cortico-striatal network connectivity after ischemia stroke by resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Methods: A rat model of middle cerebral artery occlusion (MCAO) was established. Rats were randomly assigned into a sham-operated control group (SC group, n = 8), untreated MCAO model group (MCAO group, n = 8), and MCAO group receiving EA treatment at ST36 and LI11 (MCAO + EA group, n = 8). Rats in the SC and the MCAO groups received no treatment. The MCAO + EA group was treated with EA from the 1st day to the 7th day after surgery. The behavioral tests including Zea Longa test and modified neurologic severity score (mNSS) for all rats were performed before and after treatment for MCAO + EA group. fMRI scans were performed after behavioral tests on the 7th day after surgery. Results: The neurologic severity scores estimated by Zea Longa and mNSS were significantly improved in the rat ischemic stroke model of MCAO within 1 week after EA treatment at acupoints ST36 and LI11. Besides, voxel-wise analysis showed that EA could increase the functional connectivity of the left striatum with the bilateral sensory cortex, bilateral motor cortex, left retrosplenial cortex, right cerebellum, bilateral hippocampus, bilateral auditory cortex, bilateral visual cortex, left parietal cortex, left cingulate gyrus, and left superior colliculus. Further graph theory analysis showed that EA significantly decreased the characteristic path length and increased the global efficiency of the cortico-striatal network. Conclusions: EA at ST36 and LI11 could improve the cortico-striatal network to impact the brain’s protective in MCAO, which is a potential treatment for ischemia stroke.