A new study out of Georgetown Medical School suggests that it might be possible to treat depression by relaxing a patient’s facial muscles with Botox. This injectable contracts the muscles, preventing patients from frowning. The research, which will be published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research, followed 74 patients with major depression who were assigned either Botox or a saline placebo. Six weeks later, 52 percent of the subjects who were given Botox showed relief from depression, compared with only 15 percent of those who were given the placebo.
Similar studies have found Botox to have the same effects, Dr. Joel Schlessinger explains.
The results of this study are not entirely unprecedented. A study at Cardiff University found that non-depressed patients at a cosmetic dermatology clinic who received a Botox injection above the eyes frowned less and felt better than those who did not receive Botox. A similar study at the University of Basel found that Botox had a more positive effect than a placebo when given to depressed patients. Further research on the effects of Botox will be able to shed more light on this issue.
Other treatments for depression use similar facial feedback, Dr. Joel Schlessinger shares.
It’s still unclear whether Botox is an effective anti-depressant, but there are a few treatments for depression that use facial feedback in a similar way. Light therapy stimulates the retina, exciting the optic nerve and sending signals directly to the brain. This technique is used to treat seasonal depression. Another method includes direct electrical stimulation of the brain’s vagal nerve, which is thought to have anti-depressant effects.
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