There’s a growing body of research out there showing that our facial expressions reflect our emotional ups and downs – that they appear to send crucial feedback to our brain. Without that full feedback loop, our ability to understand — and be understood — might be inhibited.

What Researchers Found

Researchers [1] studying women undergoing Botox treatment found that the treatment of Botox which essentially paralyzes the muscles, seem to slow a person’s ability to comprehend emotional language. That is, we need to perform the physical emotion through our facial muscles to convey to our brain the correct interpretation of what is being felt and said.  This compliments earlier research showing that mimicking emotional expression triggers a matching emotional response. [2]

What is this Research and What does it Prove?

Such findings have raised the question of whether emotional expression is itself necessary for fluid processing of emotional language. In the new study researchers investigated whether temporarily paralyzing the corrugator muscle (that muscle that spreads above the nose and across the brow, responsible for the parallel, vertical furrows one sees there) blocked people’s ability to process negative emotional language as it prevented one from frowning.

Before Botox

The researchers asked 40 women waiting to receive first-time Botox injections to read a series of 60 sentences on a computer, pressing a key when they understood each sentence. To make sure participants were actually reading the sentences, the researchers periodically checked their reading comprehension. Participants repeated the test, using a fresh set of questions, two weeks later when the Botox treatment’s paralyzing effect was at its height.

After Botox

After treatment, participants were slower to understand sentences conveying sadness or anger than they had been before treatment.  Botox was preventing their ability to frown when experiencing these emotions. Because you can smile with Botox, there was no such change for happy sentences. The Botox was inhibiting their responses, especially those that allowed frowning.

Results

In other words, facial expressions help the brain to understand the world around them.  Our facial expressions guide how we interpret language. When the face’s ability to provide feedback is disabled, so is our understanding hindered, as well.  This is probably one reason why so many actors and actresses are starting to use CFFitness™ facial exercises.  Here is a quote from one of them:

“I LOVE the program and do it religiously every day.  The thing that I have noticed is the general look of my skin has improved and my eyes seem more open.  Something with the eyebrows too…they seem higher.  I had trouble in the beginning with the idea of not having Botox® around my eyes again (I had done this just a few times before) because obviously it is an effective procedure.  My problem with it however, was that as much as I looked younger I felt I lost something in my face…some character…even some beauty perhaps.  A disaster for an actress! That’s why I’m so much happier with the face exercises!”

The new findings fit with the increasingly accepted theory that aspects of higher thought, such as language, judgment, and memory, are shaped by our bodily sensations and movements. [3]  Last year, scientists in Germany used neuroimaging to study people’s brain activity while they were imitating emotional facial expressions such as anger. They found that Botox treatment of frown muscles dulled neural activity in brain areas that are involved in emotional responding.

Conclusion

There are about 20 key muscles in the face that produce the major expressions showing emotion.  We are supposed to use them in order to understand and communicate subtle meaning in social life.  In the new study, Botox-induced paralysis only slowed down participants’ response to angry and sad sentences by about a tenth of a second, on average. But such effects can snowball when communicating with others. “Language is highly interactive, and we’re very, very sensitive to all kinds of cues that happen on the order of milliseconds,” says Arizona State University psychologist Arthur Glenberg, one of the study’s authors.

Timing is crucial, for example, in the ritual of taking turns during conversation.  Let’s say  you’re having a disagreement with your spouse and they are always about one-tenth of a second too slow in responding.  You start to feel your partner is disinterested or not understanding what you’re saying. After awhile you start to really get upset and the reality is they have blunted their ability to respond naturally, because their paralyzed facial muscles have prevented timely and effective feedback. Ought oh!

While it is true that Botox is a quick albeit pricey fix for lines and wrinkles in the face, it does not result in a firmer and more fit look. Carolyn’s Facial Fitness exercise system not only reduces wrinkles and lines a lot, it also gives you back your youthful contours while enhancing your complexion at the same time. It does require you to learn the exercises and then perform them regularly, but hey!  Three times a week, once a day in a guaranteed 15 minute workout is easy to keep. And, the money you save is immense!

Footnotes:

[1]  David Havas, a psychology graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison

[2]  According to Fritz Strack, a psychologist who was involved in the research and who studies emotion and cognition at the University of Würzburg in Germany.

[3]  says Paula Niedenthal, a psychologist at Blaise Pascal University in Clermont-Ferrand, France, and a leading scholar on the role of the body in emotion. According to this “embodied” view of cognition, which has gained popularity over the last decade or so, the brain makes sense of the world at least partly by simulating action.

Read the whole article:  http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/01/us/01slapp.html