Source: ScienceDaily
Date: 2 August 2009

Botox in trial to cure depression

IT may smooth out more than just worry lines. Botox, popularised by Hollywood stars wanting to stay young and wrinkle-free, is being tested as a treatment for depression.

Scientists believe emotions can be “reverse engineered” — if a patient is prevented from frowning, the theory goes, their brain may think there is nothing to worry about.

“The basic principle is that there is feedback from the body to the brain so the brain always knows what the body is doing,” said Marc Axel Wollmer, the psychiatrist in charge of the trials being held jointly at Basle University, Switzerland, and Hanover University, Germany.

“If we have an emotion like joy or grief we also have a facial expression that corresponds,” he said. “Studies indicate that if we deliberately produce a facial expression, there is a change in feeling.”

The theory is called “facial feedback hypothesis”. Another example is that someone who is forced to smile at a social event where the person is feeling uncomfortable may find he or she enjoys it more.

An initial experiment by another team used Botox on 10 depressed patients. After two months nine were no longer depressed and the 10th patient reported an improvement in mood.

Botox, based on a toxin produced by bacteria, is injected into the forehead. It temporarily weakens or paralyses the muscles that wrinkle the skin. It is a common treatment used by about 100,000 Britons a year.

Amanda Holden, the actress and Britain’s Got Talent judge, took a course of Botox after acquiring “crow’s feet” lines by her eyes. Kylie Minogue and Geri Halliwell, the pop singers, are among other celebrities to have had the injections.

“We are not interested in treating people unhappy with the cosmetic appearance of their lines,” said Wollmer. “They will feel happier after treatment because they like their looks better. That would be too simple.”

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