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Botox injections could give you more than a Nicole Kidman-smooth forehead. They might actually make you happier. In a new study about the psychological effects of the muscle-paralyzing drug, researchers have found that patients who freeze their frown lines seem to enjoy a boost in mood.

Michael Lewis, an experimental psychologist at Cardiff University in Wales, teamed up with a chain of British cosmetic surgery clinics to follow 25 women who had undergone various facial procedures. Twelve patients had had Botox injected into their glabellar frown lines, or the furrows between the eyebrows, and 13 patients had received other treatments. Patients filled out questionnaires including the Irritability-Depression-Anxiety Scale, a psychological test.

The Botox group scored significantly lower on measures of anxiety and depression. And merely looking younger or refreshed didn't explain the difference; both groups were about equally happy with their new appearances.

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Dr. Lewis suspects a phenomenon linking facial expression and emotions, called "facial feedback," is at work. The idea that the act of frowning itself can make a person unhappier - and that smiling can trigger happiness - was first suggested by Charles Darwin, and there is a growing body of evidence that it may be true.

But Dr. Lewis says Botox's possible psychological consequences aren't necessarily all positive. His future research will look at the downside of clipped facial emotions. "For instance, imagine a teacher who wants to communicate anger to her class," he says.

No word on whether he's concerned about the Nicole Kidmans of the world being unable to use their faces to act.

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About the Author

Tralee Pearce has been a reporter at The Globe and Mail since 1999, starting as a writer in the paper’s Style section. She joined the new Life section for its launch in 2007. She covers parenting and family issues for the daily section. More

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