Botox might rid you off those pesky crow’s feet, frown lines, or wrinkles in your forehead, but according to new research the anti-wrinkle treatment may have shocking effects that go beyond the surface of your skin. Specifically, the new study suggests that by paralyzing the frown muscles that are engaged when a person frowns, Botox help to short-circuit the feeling of sadness or anger itself.
During the cosmetic procedure, a doctor injects the toxin botulinum under the skin with a needle. Once Botox kicks in, it temporarily paralyzes facial muscles, smoothing out the skin, and resulting in a more “youthful” appearance. However, according to the study, preventing someone from frowning seems to short-circuit a feedback loop to the brain whereby frowning increases feelings of sadness and smiling increases feelings of happiness.
Study leader, David Havas, discovered the connection between Botox injections and the “short-circuit” problem after studying 40 first-time Botox patients both before and after they received the injections. Prior to receiving the injections, Havas had the patients read statements that were happy, sad, or angry. The patients were then directed to press a button answering which emotion they thought each statement expressed. Havas then repeated the same test after the patients received the injections and found that they still could read the happy statements correctly, but took longer to correctly identify the sad statements. Overall, Havas concluded that the Botox treatments disrupted the feedback loop prompted by a frown, which then sends a signal to the brain. Although the delay in reading the sad statements was less than a second, Havas argues that this could inhibit Botox users’ abilities to correctly read subtle emotional cues when talking with another person.