Botulinum toxin and the facial feedback hypothesis: Can looking better make you feel happier?

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Abstract

The facial feedback hypothesis suggests that muscular manipulations which result in more positive facial expressions may lead to more positive emotional states in affected individuals. In this essay, we hypothesize that the injection of botulinum toxin for upper face dynamic creases might induce positive emotional states by reducing the ability to frown and create other negative facial expressions. The use of botulinum toxin to pharmacologically alter upper face muscular expressiveness may curtail the appearance of negative emotions, most notably anger, but also fear and sadness. This occurs via the relaxation of the corrugator supercilii and the procerus, which are responsible for brow furrowing, and to a lesser extent, because of the relaxation of the frontalis. Concurrently, botulinum toxin may dampen some positive expressions like the true smile, which requires activity of the orbicularis oculi, a muscle also relaxed after toxin injections. On balance, the evidence suggests that botulinum toxin injections for upper face dynamic creases may reduce negative facial expressions more than they reduce positive facial expressions. Based on the facial feedback hypothesis, this net change in facial expression may potentially have the secondary effect of reducing the internal experience of negative emotions, thus making patients feel less angry, sad, and fearful.

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