Background: Acupuncture may effectively treat certain symptoms of Alzheimer's disease (AD). Although several studies have used functional brain imaging to investigate the mechanisms of acupuncture treatment on AD, these mechanisms are still poorly understood. We therefore further explored the mechanism by which needling at ST36 may have a therapeutic effect in a rat AD model. Methods: A total of 80 healthy Wistar rats were divided into healthy control (n = 15) and pre-model (n = 65) groups. After inducing AD-like disease, a total of 45 AD model rats were randomly divided into three groups: the model group (n = 15), the sham-point group (n = 15), and the ST36 group (n = 15). The above three groups underwent PET scanning. PET images were processed with SPM2. Results: The brain areas that were activated in the sham-point group relative to the model group were primarily centred on the bilateral limbic system, the right frontal lobe, and the striatum, whereas the activated areas in the ST36 group were primarily centred on the bilateral limbic system (pyriform cortex), the bilateral temporal lobe (olfactory cortex), the right amygdala and the right hippocampus. Compared with the sham-point group, the ST36 group showed greater activation in the bilateral amygdalae and the left temporal lobe. Conclusion: We concluded that needling at a sham point or ST36 can increase blood perfusion and glycol metabolism in certain brain areas, and thus may have a positive influence on the cognition of AD patients.