fMRI: The Patient-Acupuncturist Relationship

With Guest: Vitaly Napadow

Episode Qi201

Any seasoned practitioner leans on the patient practitioner relationship. There is something in the interaction that cannot be separated from the response they have to our treatment. 
In this conversation with Vitaly Napadow we discuss the Art of Medicine and how fMRI imaging from the brains of patients and practitioners with an established clinical relationship gives us a breathtaking glimpse into how our brains mutually interact with each other. And more importantly, how that can affect clinical results.
Listen into this discussion of mirroring, rapport, neuroplasticity and how human connection and therapeutic results are intimately connected. 
In this conversation we discuss:
  • Life takes us down paths we thought we did not want to go down
  • The art of medicine
  • Facial mirroring and therapeutic effect
  • Brain concordance in the patient practitioner relationship
  • Psychosocial analgesia
  • Using our own nervous system to get a glimpse of what a patient is experiencing
  • The importance of being able to forget
  • The difference between compassion and empathy
  • Neuroplasticity and pain
Never take your clinic home with you. Favor compassion over empathy, and your patients will be better for it.
Vitaly Napadow, L.Ac, PhD

I am a Professor at the Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston, MA, where I am also the Director of the Center for Integrative Pain Neuroimaging (CiPNI). I received my PhD in biomedical engineering from MIT and Harvard Medical School. Somatosensory, cognitive, and affective factors all influence the malleable experience of chronic pain, and my Lab has applied human functional and structural neuroimaging to localize and suggest mechanisms by which different brain circuitries modulate pain perception. 
My neuroimaging research also aims to better understand how non-pharmacological therapies, from acupuncture and transcutaneous neuromodulation to cognitive behavioral therapy and mindfulness meditation training, ameliorate aversive perceptual states such as pain. I have more than 200 publications in leading peer-reviewed scientific journals, am past-President of the Society for Acupuncture Research, and serve on the board of the US Association for the Study of Pain (USASP) and numerous conference, journal, and NIH review panels.
 I was recently named to the Academy Distinguished Investigator Council by the Academy for Radiology & Biomedical Imaging Research and received the Excellence in Integrative Medicine Research Award by the European Society for Integrative Medicine. Finally, I have learned over the years that life and career are a winding road that you cannot fully control, but is full of opportunities and bifurcations. If you keep your mind open to these opportunities, and persevere, good things will happen.
Links and Resources

Learn more about Vitaly’s work with neuroimaging
Investigate the work of the Society for Acupuncture Research 

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I’ve heard it said that for something to be heard — it takes someone to speak and another to listen.

Michael Max

Acupuncturist, Podcast Host
About me
I've always been more drawn to questions than answers. And the practice of medicine seems to more lively when infused with a sense of curiosity and inquiry. It's been delight and honor to be able to discuss our medicine with so many thoughtful and skilled practitioners.

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