How Botox Could Inhibit Emotions


Scientists think that human facial expressions have evolved over millions of years for better communication and empathy, Carl Zimmer writes for Discover. Babies instinctively mimic other people’s facial expressions, and some think this is helps them understand what grownups are thinking. Some go further, postulating that facial expressions actually create emotions. “When humans mimic others’ faces,” Zimmer writes, “we don’t just go through the motions. We also go through the emotions.”

It makes sense, then, that emotional exchanges would be irrevocably altered by drugs like Botox. Plastic surgeons use Botox to make people look younger, but the drug also paralyzes facial muscles and inhibits facial expressions. Neuroscientists have tested patients using Dysport, a Botox-like drug found in Europe, by showing them images of angry faces and asking them to mimic or observe the expressions. Using brain scans, the scientists found that Dysport patients had weaker activity in the amygdala, a part of the brain that is key to experiencing emotions. This signals a change in the way that the Dysport patients experience emotions. Zimmer writes that through drugs like Botox and Dysport, “we’re tampering with the ancient lines of communication between face and brain that may change our minds in ways we don’t yet understand.”

Rachel Levitt
10/30/2008 9:42:46 AM

It makes sense that drugs like Botox would affect emotions, now that I think about it. Scientists have done plenty of research on it and found that mimicking positive or negative emotion actually creates it in study subjects!

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