Friday, August 26, 2011

Botox and empathy: Less is more

I am kind of stuck on this whole Botox-empathy thing. A recent study from researchers at Duke and UCLA implied that people who get Botox to attenuate their wrinkles also seem to attenuate their empathic ability. Somehow their inability to mimic others' facial expressions impairs the firing of their mirror neurons and they top feeling empathy. Wow!

But think of it -- Botulinum toxin, arguably one of the most potent poisons known to humans, is being used essentially recreationally as a drug, quite possibly an addictive one. Who thought this was a good idea? OK, don't answer that.

To be sure, the same toxin in a therapeutic preparation can help people with paralysis release painful contractures, and this is a wonderful advance. Just as morphine is a terrific pain reliever under the right circumstances. But used recreationally? Everyone is aware of the havoc it can wreak, both personally and societally. So, how did we justify allowing this most potent of all poisons to be injected into perfectly healthy (and beautiful, I might add) aging faces?

File this under "Go figure." Another opportunity for "less is more."


  1. The studies show no conclusive findings. What you had stated is the more important concern. As interesting as botox-emphathy is, the toxicity of it should not be ignored. Thank you for this informative article which can be filed under 'Go figure'.

  2. No, not conclusive. But, as I have argued before, different types of outcomes require different levels of scientific certainty. Here we are dealing with a completely discretionary procedure that may alter our very humanity -- a mere possibility of this is enough for me to advocate steering clear.

  3. This study is based on what?
    I don't understand how they could figure this out....I had a few botox Toronto treatments and I felt no difference after.....besides the fresh and younger look.....
    Maybe the main reason for this study was to scare people because botox's popularity is increasing every single day.

  4. Joanna, I refer you to the study in the link provided. You know what they say, anecdote is not data, and what are you basing your "scare tactics" hypothesis on? Is there any evidence for this?
    Incidentally, I accepted your comment despite the overt marketing and a link because I wanted to remind my readers not to hang their hats on an anecdote and know their sources. Insidious marketing like yours needs to be debunked just as much as or even more so than main stream advertising.