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A recent University of Chicago study links the local muscle paralytic botulinum toxin A to “more positive first impressions”. (1) The link between a friendlier-looking countenance and social success does seem intuitive, the authors explain.
In this study, expressions that were perceived as friendlier (think less furrowed brow) invoked an in-kind response from whomever the subject’s gaze was directed. Subjects who had received botulinum toxin were scored by observers they had never met before. They were perceived as “more successful” and “better academic performers” than their non-injected counterparts.
This story partially broke last September, but has received an increasing amount of buzz as more investigators are able to link our facial expressions to everything from depression to overall quality of life. Several pilot studies are now using botulinum toxin to treat major depressive illness and finding patients can be disease-free for months! (2) These psychiatrists believe the cause-effect link between mood and facial expression should be reversed. That perhaps facial muscle contraction can even lead to sadness (not the other way around.) (3) Charles Darwin once wrote, “the free expression, by outward signs, of an emotion intensifies it.” (4) Perhaps he had it right all along! All of this news is particularly timely with the FDA’s announcement last week that a new botulinum toxin, Dysport, will soon be available in the U.S. It is said to be a cheaper version of the toxin, compared to Botox, with similar efficacy.
1. Dermatol Surg. 2008 Jun;34 Suppl 1:S40-7.
2. Dermatol Surg. 2006 May;32(5):645-9; discussion 649-50.
3. Dermatol Surg. 2007 Jun;33(6):765.
4. Darwin C. The expression of the emotions in man and animals. Oxford Press, 1998.