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How do You Feel about Botox?

Author: Katie Hart

Date: 15 Nov 2023

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How do You Feel about Botox?
Image courtesy of Vecteezy

The human face has 43 muscles in it, which between them can produce an astonishing 10,000 different expressions.

However, it gets even more exciting (well, to me at least!) when we learn that most of these expressions are innate, that is, they are natural to us – we are born with them. The same facial expressions are produced by people who were born blind, and so have never ‘seen’ the expression; they are produced by babies; they are produced by humans from a range of different continents and cultures; and they are even produced by some of our closest primate relatives.

For something to be encoded into us in this way, and to be passed down from generation to generation, we can usually assume that it is important to us, something which serves a vital and significant purpose.

So, why do facial expressions matter so much to us and our survival?

The expressions on our face convey vital information to those around us about our feelings, emotions and moods. They enable people to build relationships and start to predict future behaviours, and they warn us when all is not well and we should be concerned.

All through different combinations of the 43 muscles in our face.

So what happens when you add Botox into the equation?

Botox works on the muscles within a face, by relaxing (or temporarily paralysing) the muscles. The effect of this is the reduction of the appearance of wrinkles – the benefit most people turn to Botox to achieve.

However, if injected into the key muscles which create a classic ‘frown’ expression (those between the eyebrows), Botox can significantly reduce the effects of depression. Yes, by preventing our faces from being able to create a frown, we can reduce and even remove clinical diagnoses of depression. And before you even start to think that people just felt less depressed because they looked better and had less wrinkles, some of the patients included in the study, suffered from severe depression, but did not yet have wrinkles or lines showing between their eyebrows.

But, it is only fair to let you know both sides of the Botox story.

There has been an interesting addition to the research on Botox and emotions, and that is the way Botox effects our ability to read the emotions of others.

The facial feedback hypothesis suggests that when we see someone who is angry or happy or afraid, some of the muscles in our faces contract in the same way as theirs is, allowing us to effectively re-create the emotion they are experiencing. Have you ever winced and screwed your face up in apparent pain when you see someone experience a nasty incident or accident? Or what about when you see someone laugh, does that ever make you smile too? Yep, I thought so. Well, it turns out that these involuntary changes in our own face, not only help us to identify the emotion being experienced, but also enable us to show empathy to the person experiencing it too. This in turn will help us to build bonds and create social connections with those around us.

So, when we fill our face with Botox, and we prevent these muscular changes from taking place, we can actually inhibit our ability to read and understand emotions in the people around us. Preventing the muscles in our face from moving to mirror the expressions we see on others, was shown to reduce activity in the amygdala and fusiform gyrus areas, where the processing of emotions and faces takes place.

Think about that…

…but not for too long – I wouldn’t want you to get concentration frown lines on my account.

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