Botox and Mood: Another Novel Use for this Popular Treatment?
- 28 November 2013
- Dr. Nidal (Nick) Masri
Botox is the neurotoxin famous for its wrinkle-erasing powers in millions of men and women across the globe. It has also gained popularity as a means of stopping excessive sweating under the arms. But that’s not all! It can also help reduce pain for migraine sufferers. And wait, there is potentially more! Recent research has begun to demonstrate
another possible successful use for this injectable treatment. Botox may boost mood and reduce depression in certain individuals.
Preliminary research by dermatologist Dr. Eric Finzi (pictured above – source: RealSelf.com), indicates that Botox may indeed improve symptoms of depression. In fact, Dr. Finzi is working to obtain approval from the FDA for the use of Botox as a mood elevator (currently such use would be considered “off-label” and is not approved).
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Dr. Finzi claims his work is based on writings of Charles Darwin and William James about the relationship between facial expressions and their effect on mood. The writings propose that facial expressions feed information to the brain which understands the feedback as either positive or negative.
Dr. Finzi recently presented his findings from a clinical trial where 85 study participants with clinically diagnosed depression were given either Botox (botulin toxin A) or a placebo (saline injection). The injection was given between the eyebrows in muscles that create a frown. The results of the study showed a positive change in more than half of the Botox group participants while only 15% of the saline group participants responded with positive changes to mood. In research, the change must be statistically significant to show that a treatment is effective. In this case, the Botox treatment group improvement was statistically significant.
There is one main theory to explain the effect of Botox treatment on mood. Dr. Finzi suggests that with each frown, an individual is sending an impulse back to your brain telling it that whatever it is experiencing is unpleasant and that they are not happy. Eliminate the frown and perhaps you eliminate the signal. Eliminate the signal and perhaps you eliminate the emotion altogether.
When there is no contraction or tension in the muscles that create a frown, like when they have been treated and paralyzed by Botox, there is no way for that particular frown means “unhappy” signal to get back to the brain. No negative feedback means the brain assess the individual’s mental state as positive. In other words:
No frown = No worry = I’m happy
While this preliminary study may be an exciting step in the right direction to developing a new treatment for depression, further study of this potential therapeutic method is needed. Depression and mental health in general are underfunded areas of medical research. The stigma around depression still exists. To obtain adequate study and research funding education and acceptance of mental health issues must take place. Until this happens, it may be challenging to get research dollars allocated to novel treatments for depression.