Turn the frown upside down

By John Pastor • Published: January 2nd, 2013
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Philosophers no less learn-ed than Aristotle have pondered the dilemma of the chicken and the egg.

They wonder in circles … which came first? … because you can’t have one without the other.

Today, let’s look at a variation of the classic “Which came first” dilemma.

Do you smile because you are happy or are you happy because you are smiling?

Or, to look at it another way, are you frowning because you are sad or sad because you are frowning?

Theories of emotion have long put forth the existence of a two-way relationship between emotions and our outward expressions.

Now, thanks to the use of a drug called Botox to lessen the lines on our faces, a new wrinkle has come to light.

People who receive Botox for cosmetic purposes sometimes have problems displaying emotions because their facial muscles can’t contract. But for people with depression, not being able to show feelings may have a sunny side.

Scientists associated with the University of Basel in Switzerland tested volunteers who weren’t helped by traditional antidepressants by giving them injections of Botox in their foreheads and between their eyebrows.

A comparable group of depressed volunteers was given a placebo injection. Botox is derived from neurotoxic bacteria and must only be used with strict medical supervision.

After six weeks, symptoms of depression in the treatment group decreased by nearly 50 percent and stayed low for more than two months. Volunteers in the placebo group had a lesser, 9 percent reduction in symptoms of depression.

Scientists think that when they interrupted feedback from facial muscles to the brain, they may have removed a component in the development of negative emotions.

People obviously use the muscles in their faces to express emotions. Could the selfsame muscular postures be instrumental for experiencing emotions, too?

Test it for yourself. Turn the frown upside down. No Botox required.