Botox may help reduce depression, study shows

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The bacterial toxin botulinum toxin (BTX)—colloquially known as Botox—is probably known to most people as a remedy for wrinkles.

But in a study from the Hannover Medical School and elsewhere, scientists found botulinum toxin can do even more: if it is injected into the forehead, for example, it can alleviate depression.

It also dampens negative emotions in people with borderline personality disorder, who suffer from extreme mood swings.

Negative moods are expressed on the face in the so-called glabellar region, the area of the lower middle forehead.

When we are angry or tense, two different types of muscles contract and cause frown lines or worry lines to appear above the root of the nose.

When botulinum toxin is injected into the glabellar region, it paralyzes these muscles between the eyebrows. Because facial expressions and psychological state are closely linked, this also reduces the intensity of emotions.

In the study, the team found out where and how BTX influences the negative program in the brain. With the help of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), they have visualized the neuronal effects in borderline patients.

They found botulinum toxin influences the so-called amygdala or almond nucleus in the temporal lobe of the brain, where fears arise and are processed.

The team found depressive symptoms improve significantly as a result.

The treatment has several advantages at once: Since the paralyzing effect lasts for three or more months, an injection also only needs to be given at these intervals.

The infrequent injections are also less costly than some other therapy options and have very good tolerance and acceptance among patients.

The team found by interrupting the feedback loop between the forehead muscles and the brain, botulinum toxin also changes the emotional feedback.

The researchers were able to prove this in the brains of borderline patients who had been treated with a botulinum toxin injection in the glabellar region.

Just four weeks later, the patients had significantly reduced symptoms, which was also shown in the MRI images.

So far, however, BTX treatment for mental illnesses has not been included in the services provided by health insurance companies. The psychiatrist hopes that this will change when the mode of action has been better researched.

If you care about depression, please read studies about a major cause of depression in older people, and new drug to treat depression effectively.

For more information about mental health, please see recent studies about anxiety therapy that can strongly change personality, and results showing one dose of this drug may lower anxiety and depression for 5 years.

The study was conducted by Dr. Tillmann Krüger et al and published in the journal Scientific Reports.

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