Physicians slam media interpretation of Botox paper

Posted on the 15 April 2010 at 11:09

A recent article in The Times newspaper under the title " Friends frozen out as Botox deadens facial expression" suggested that the findings of a recent paper by Dr David Havas showed women who use Botox are sending out the wrong social signals because their frozen facial muscles make it difficult for them to express the normal range of emotions. It even went so far as to say they “may even be unable to show empathy – for example, when told about a family death”.

 

The study was carried out by Dr David Havas and colleagues from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Arizona State University and the University of Chicago and was funded by the National Science Foundation, National Institute of Mental Health and Research to Prevent Blindness. A theoretical measure of emotional response time was observed in 41 people who received Botox injections for the first time. Researchers recorded the time taken for the group to read sentences describing happy, angry and sad scenarios before and after they had had their frown lines treated with Botox. By assessing the change in reading times, the researchers commented on how Botox impacts the processing of happy, angry and sad sentences.

 

Dr Havas said that the study suggests that people who have had Botox may not be able to process negative news as efficiently as those who have not been injected: “Because comprehension of happy sentences was not similarly affected, we conclude that paralysis of the facial muscles used in expression of negative emotions hinders comprehension of language that describes negative emotional situations that would normally require the affected muscles in their expression.” Dr Havas said that the study suggests that people who have had Botox may not be able to process negative news as efficiently as those who have not been injected: “Because comprehension of happy sentences was not similarly affected, we conclude that paralysis of the facial muscles used in expression of negative emotions hinders comprehension of language that describes negative emotional situations that would normally require the affected muscles in their expression.”

 

In a follow up article in Professional Beauty, Kate Donovan commented that many practitioners slammed the Times interpretation of the original article. She quoted, Dr Patrick Bowler director of Court House Clinics who said that he believed the media has exaggerated the meaning of the findings.


Commenting on the study he said: “It’s slightly interesting but not very meaningful or helpful.” He added that there are numerous ways for an individual to show anger and sadness and not just through the lines treated with Botox. He also said that as far as he was aware there are no studies available at the moment that correlate reading speed with emotional reactivity. “They have taken a jump from an observation to a rather far-flung conclusion,” said Bowler. “The media has then got hold of it and blown it out of proportion.”
He concluded: “I’ve treated thousands of people with Botox and none of them have come back to me and said that it has left them feeling depressed or that they have lost friends.”

 

The follow-up article also quoted Havas stating that "the study’s results could be evidence that Botox treatments have a negative impact on an individual’s social interaction". He further commented: “This finding could have profound effects for the cosmetic surgery industry. Although the effects in sentence understanding are modest, small delays in emotional language comprehension could have cascading effects in conversation. For example, if you’re trying to relate to me a situation that made you sad or angry, and I was slow to pick up on your meaning, you might think I didn’t understand you, or that I didn’t care.”

 

British Association of Cosmetic Doctors regional representative for the Republic and Northern Ireland Dr Patrick Treacy also pointed out that there have been studies that found a link between restricted frown muscles and an increased happy mood. He said: “The study results actually support the theory of ‘facial feedback hypothesis’, which states that physical emotions such as grinning or grimacing, signal our brains to produce emotional responses. In this case, the Botox injections prevented frowning, and so delayed the perception of negative statements. In essence, the inability to frown works backward to adjust our emotions and make us feel happier.”

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