The headlines on Botox continue to be worrisome, but don’t expect to read that emotion on the face of anyone who gets the popular treatment. Discovery News reports on a new study that shows Botox injections administered to reduce frown lines may delay a patient’s ability to experience negative emotions. 

Experts note that language helps us experience emotions in part by moving our faces. To illustrate this, 40 first-time Botox users were evaluated before and two weeks after they underwent the procedure. It took longer for frown-injected participants to process the angry and sad statements. However, the time required to process happy statements did not change.

Botox is actually botulinum toxin type A (BTX), which in part paralyzes facial muscles that control frowning. The study, conducted at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, supports the “facial feedback hypothesis.” This is the idea that physical expressions such as smiling and frowning signal our brains to create an emotional response. So if a person is unable to frown, he or she will have a delay in feeling sad or upset. In fact, the lack of an ability to frown may even work backwards to “adjust” our emotions into a happier state. 

David Havas is the lead study author and a psychologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. As he told Discovery News, "Botox induces a kind of mild, temporary cognitive blindness to information in the world, social information about the emotions of other people." Havas concludes this may potentially harm users, who could miss subtle cues to understanding precarious positions.  

But others see a positive benefit in having negative emotions delayed, if just for a second. According to Murad Alam, an associate professor of dermatology at Northwestern University, "I think it is probably better to feel happier most of the time, even if this means that it occasionally takes a few extra seconds to pick up on others' negative emotions."

For further reading: