A new study published in the journal Emotion examines whether Botox injections have an effect on the patient’s emotional experience.
Joshua Davis and Ann Senghas, Barnard College professors who led the research, wanted to see if feedback from facial expressions influences emotional experience. They compared the self-reported emotional experiences of those with Botox injections (which paralyze muscles of facial expression) and a control group with Restylane injections (a cosmetic filler that does not affect facial muscles). Participants’ responses were to video clips they were shown.
According to the study’s abstract, “When examined alone, Botox participants showed no pre- to post-treatment changes in emotional responses to our most positive and negative video clips.”
Comparisons between the groups, however, showed Botox participants exhibited an overall significant decrease in the strength of emotional experience.
“With the advent of Botox, it is now possible to work with people who have a temporary, reversible paralysis in muscles that are involved in facial expressions,” said Davis. “With Botox, a person can respond otherwise normally to an emotional event, e.g. a sad movie scene, but will have less movement in the facial muscles that have been injected, and therefore less feedback to the brain about such facial expressivity. It thus allows for a test of whether facial expressions and the sensory feedback from them to the brain can influence our emotions.”
The findings suggest that feedback from facial expressions is not necessary for emotional experience, but may influence emotional experience in some circumstances.