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Making Sense of Subtle Physical Changes

Today, I visited the Toyo Acupuncture College in Shin-Okubo, Tokyo. Although Dr. Hironao Takeuchi, President of the College, was extremely busy, he generously shared his time with me. We had a wonderful meeting.

The lesson I learned from Dr. Takeuchi today is that real experts have keen senses. One of the most difficult diagnostic techniques in acupuncture would be diagnostic sphygmopalpation (palpation) while there are other three techniques: Seeing (observation), hearing (auscultation) and asking (medical interview). This is the technique to grasp health condition of the patient through pulse types.

For instance, an acupuncture master can accurately predict when the patient will die through diagnostic sphygmopalpation. This is called 'Death pulse'. According to classic textbook, there are seven types of death pulse. All of them show irregular pulse. If the patient has one of the seven death pulse, the patient will die in 6 to 24 hours.

Dr. Taleuchi stated that, from his clinical experience in decades, it takes more than 10 years to master diagnostic sphygmopalpation. As a matter of fact, 10-year-experience is not satisfactory to acquire the skill.

Indeed, any acupuncture masters have their outstanding ability to make sense of subtle physical changes of the patient. It's true students and apprentices should have basic medical knowledge including Meridian and acupuncture points, but it's also crucial to consider how they can build their sensemaking skills.

As a cognitive scientist, I hope I can find out mechanism of sensemaking of acupuncture master and help future acupuncture therapists to develop their skills.








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