Can Botox Reduce Emotional Experience?

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Louise Hay

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Do you laugh because you are happy or are you happy because you laugh? This has always been a central question in the history of the Psychology of Emotions.

Darwin considered facial experiments to be vital for experiencing emotions. William James later continued to develop this idea and currently Damasio claims that emotions and their corresponding facial expressions are intimately related by influencing each other. The Botox (botox), which today is used by millions of people to reduce wrinkles, leads to paralysis of the muscles involved in the manifestation of facial expressions. A recent study developed by the University of Winsconsin-Madison suggests that the use of botulinum (botox) reduces the quality of emotional experiences. Given the enormous repercussions that this claim could have, it is worth taking a closer look at this study. The researchers manipulated facial expressions in a very ingenious and simple way: the participants of the experiment were asked to smile while holding a pencil between their teeth or between their lips. Where is the difference? When the pencil is supported by the teeth, the muscles of the face can be innervated with greater ease and ease, while when it is pressed between the lips it is not possible to produce a smile with the same ease. It was thus observed that the way in which the pencil was held influenced the reading of sentences with an emotional content. The reading time of the sentences describing pleasant situations was less when the participants smiled, compared to when they could not smile. This phenomenon was reversed when the sentences were of unpleasant content. In this way it can be said that the understanding of sentences is related to the facial expressions of people, depending on how well the contents are understood or not. But… where does this idea come from? Previous research has shown that the mere fact of reading words that describe emotions activates the facial muscles involved in the expression of a certain emotion. For example, reading words with negative emotional content causes the area between the two eyebrows to contract, causing the eyebrows to come together, while reading words with positive emotional content activates the cheekbone area causing the ends of the lips to close together. raise up to crack a smile. These results argue in favor of involuntary facial expressions evoking emotions and suggest that the brain mechanisms involved in experiencing emotions are also involved in understanding language. Following the lead in this study, Havas recruited 40 women who wished to undergo their first botulinum (botox) injections as part of a cosmetic treatment. These women were asked to read sentences describing happy, sad or emotionally neutral situations. Immediately after, they were given a botulinum injection into the eyebrow muscle. It must be said that botox works by inhibiting the release of acetylcholine (a neurotransmitter in charge of sending the nerve impulse of the brain to the facial muscles so that they contract depending on the emotion experienced), which leads to a paralysis of the muscles between 24 and 48 hours. Normally this procedure is repeated between 3 and 4 times a month and so the muscle can atrophy, although some specialists say that this effect can be reversed. Two weeks after the injection, the participants returned to the lab to read another list of questions similar to the first ones. The results showed that after applying botox, women read negative sentences more slowly, and this coincided with previous studies. The reading time of the sentences with neutral and emotionally positive content did not change (perhaps because no botox was injected into the areas around the lips). At this point, the researchers determined that the increase in reading time implied a certain level of paralysis of the eyebrow muscle, hindering the understanding of negative emotional contents. It is thus established that the feedback that occurs following the contractions of the facial muscles is essential to regulate emotional experiences but the application of botox could reduce the ability to experience both positive and negative emotions. However, the researchers warn that these findings are only preliminary and that more research will be needed to arrive at conclusive data.

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