Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Botox and Emotions

Just in case you have been considering paralysing your face muscles for reasons of vanity, perhaps after reading this post you will think twice!

Botox is a drug made from a neurotoxin produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum called "botulinum toxin". Given that botulinum toxin is one of the most poisonous substances known to man. you won't be surprised that there are lots of web sites (such as this one) warning about its dangers. Yet those warnings seem to be going unheard if the growth in face-freezing salons is anything to go by!

Disabling the muscles of the face takes away its ability to express certain emotions which use those muscles. A 2010 study by Barnard College in New York State demonstrated that if the ability to express emotions is lost, then the the intensity of those emotions is also impaired!

Researchers have given the link between botox and emotions the rather grand title "The Facial Feedback Hypothesis" which states that facial movement can influence emotional experience. Of course those of us familiar with AT will immediately recognise this as Psychphysical Unity. We know that it is a mechanism that isn't just restricted to facial muscle feedback. I have written about psychophysical unity in a previous post.

Study: Botox Erases Wrinkles, Maybe Emotions Too

Not surprisingly, the multi-million pound botox industry has defended itself by casting doubt on the validity of the study and publishing interviews with famous "frozen visages" stating how happy they feel with their new "youthful" appearance. Not that "happy" was the emotion that the study focussed-on. They have even countered by suggesting that the facial feedback effect could be used to control depression! They don't specify exactly which muscles are responsible for expressing depression or whether those muscles are also involved in all the other emotional expressions.

Given the risks associated with the toxin itself, my view is that whether or not this study is repeated and validated, the risk of impairing your emotional responses is too high a price to pay for vanity.

The full paper describing the study is shown here. I have not found any studies that have refuted the claims.