Hugh MacPherson (born 1948) is a Professor or Acupuncture Research at the , founder and current Trustee of the , founder and co-ordinator of the international group, Clinic Director of York Clinic, Fellow of The College of Medicine, and a practicing member of the British Acupuncture Council.
After completing a PhD in applied mathematics at the University of New South Wales, Australia, in 1979, he trained in Chinese medicine becoming a registered acupuncturist in 1983. He became Clinical Director of the in 1986, and founded the in York in 1988, acting as the college’s principal from 1988 to 1997. Between 1997 and 2003, he was the Research Director of the , York. He then worked at the University of York, first as a Senior Research Fellow, and in 2016 as Professor of Acupuncture Research. He has been researching and writing about acupuncture since 1992 and published over 100 peer-reviewed articles on the subject.
He has appeared on a number of radio and television programs including BBC Radio 4’s The Other Medicine, BBC Two’s Alternative Medicine: The Evidence, BBC Three’s Kick Ass Miracles and BBC Two’s .
Hugh MacPherson’s research on acupuncture for low back pain was published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), and subsequently was central to the decision by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) to recommend acupuncture for persistent low back pain in 2009. His study of acupuncture or counselling for ongoing depression in primary care found that both acupuncture and counselling are effective for patients, the majority of whom were taking antidepressants.
Hugh MacPherson was Principal Investigator on a study that investigated acupuncture and brain imaging in York, which was filmed by BBC Two Science but received press criticism for not being good science. The BBC Trust subsequently received a complaint about the programme that questioned the “significance accorded to brain-imaging results following deep needling.” The BBC defended the series against what they described as “unjust, inaccurate and damaging allegations made in the national press”. When this complaint related to the brain imaging was considered by the BBC Trust in 2007, it was not upheld. Three peer-reviewed publications (references below) resulted from this study, which established new results on acupuncture’s impact on brain function. This included a publication, published in the journal Brain Research, which showed that acupuncture works by deactivating pain pathways in the brain.