Cognitive impairments after brain irradiation seriously affect quality of life for patients, and there is currently no effective treatment. In this study using an irradiated rat model, the role of electroacupuncture was investigated for treatment of radiation-induced brain injury. Animals received 10 Gy exposure to the entire brain, and electroacupuncture was administered 3 days before irradiation as well as up to 2 weeks postirradiation. Behavioral tests were performed one month postirradiation, and rats were then sacrificed for histology or molecular studies. Electroacupuncture markedly improved animal performance in the novel place recognition test. In the emotion test, electroacupuncture reduced defecation during the open-field test, and latency to consumption of food in the novelty suppressed feeding test. Brain irradiation inhibited the generation of immature neurons, but did not cause neural stem cell loss. Electroacupuncture partially restored hippocampal neurogenesis. Electroacupuncture decreased the amount of activated microglia and increased resting microglia in the hippocampus after irradiation. In addition, electroacupuncture promoted mRNA and protein expression of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in the hippocampus. In conclusion, electroacupuncture could improve cognitive function and hippocampal neurogenesis after irradiation, and the protective effect of electroacupuncture was associated with the modulation of microglia and upregulation of BDNF in the hippocampus.

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