Frozen Emotions

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A new study, commented on by The New York Times, lends even more evidence to the theory that regular botox injections can help treat depression.

Last year, we blogged about a study by Dr. Eric Finzi that suggested that onabotulinumtoxinA (commonly referred to as “Botox”) injected into the corrugator and procerus muscles (the frown muscles between the eyebrows) could alleviate symptoms of depression by inhibiting the face’s ability to display negative emotion such as a frown.

In his previous study, Dr. Finzi cited the “facial feedback hypothesis” first proposed by Charles Darwin and William James, which states that facial expressions of emotion can have a distinct influence on mood. Dr. Finzi took this idea one step further, and proposed a new model of “emotional proprioception”, wherein the brain continuously monitors the relative valence of facial expressions and that mood responds accordingly. If true, this could mean that unconscious facial expressions greatly affect how someone feels; by changing someone’s at-rest expression, mood can be drastically affected.

Dr Finzi first started researching the effects of botox on mood in 2006. His original report, published by  The American Society for Dermatologic Surgery, was anecdotal and lacked sufficient sample size or control methods. Other researchers followed up on his research in 2011 with a study that confirmed his original findings.

Dr. Finzi’s most recent study, completed with the help of psychiatrist Dr. Normal Rosenthal, is the most comprehensive conducted on the subject, taking place over the course of 6 weeks and involving 69 participants.  You might think that patients would easily be able to tell whether they got the placebo or Botox.  However, it wasn’t so obvious; only 50% of the subjects getting Botox guessed correctly.  More important, knowing which treatment was received had no significant effect on treatment response.)

Interestingly, the study was solely funded by the Chevy Chase Cosmetic Center, a dermatology center specializing in cosmetic treatments, which Dr. Finzi owns. While Dr. Finzi’s results are fascinating, more confirmation by unbiased sources will likely be necessary before such treatments will be approved by the FDA.

Could this new study lead to an increase of the popularity of botox?

Let us know what you think in the comments.

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