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  • midlifelove 10:11 am on November 27, 2009 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Botox, brain, , Eric Finzi, facial muscles, Fake it till you make it, , Nat King Cole, neurological link, Smile   

    Women on Botox Happier 

    woman botoxNat King Cole knew more than we realised when he sang “Smile, what’s the use of crying, You’ll find that life is still worthwhile, If you just smile.”

    That’s because science is increasingly finding that changing expressions can influence mood, although scientists still don’t fully understand why.  But they are beginning to suspect a neurological link between facial muscles and brain activity.

    People asked to smile while watching a cartoon, for instance, report it is funnier than people who are not asked to smile.

    Botox Lifts Depression

    Now a series of studies seem to show that women who have Botox treatments are happier – and it has nothing to do with increased self confidence because they look better.

    First (in 2006) a Botox-happy cosmetic surgeon reported a  small study which claimed that filling out depressed women’s frown lines so they couldn’t wrinkle their brows helped lift their depression.

    The pilot study of 10 patients was the first to provide empirical support for what a number of clinicians say they have noticed anecdotally: People who get their furrowed brows eliminated with Botox (botulinum toxin A) often report an improvement in mood.

    Washington dermatologist Eric Finzi’s study found that even patients who were not seeking cosmetic improvement showed a dramatic decrease in depression symptoms.

    Not Just Self Confidence

    And a follow up study reported in Time magazine suggests that Botox may lighten people’s moods by literally wiping the frowns off their faces.

    The study, published in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, followed 25 cosmetic-surgery patients, 12 of whom received injections of Botulinum Toxin A or similar neurotoxins, the others receiving fillers, peels or other cosmetic treatments for wrinkles.

    Two weeks after the treatments patients filled out a questionnaire for depression and anxiety.

    “The Botox patients scored much lower on measures of depression, anxiety and irritability,” explains Michael Lewis, a psychology professor at the University of Cardiff and lead author of the study. “Crucially, there was no significant difference in how much their treatment made them feel attractive from those who had other treatments, suggesting that [the mood boost] wasn’t just down to a boost in self-confidence.”

    Face and Brain Link

    At the time, Finzi explained the results of his 2006 study using the facial-feedback hypothesis — a feedback loop in which people frown back at a depressed person, further deepening that person’s sense of isolation. He suggested that if a depressed person can’t frown because of Botox treatment, then others won’t frown back at them, thereby breaking the loop.

    Others have suggested facial muscles may alter the temperature of blood flowing in the brain. Relaxation techniques such as yoga and tai chi may help cool the brain and result in a more positive mood.

    Whatever the mechanism, moods can clearly be influenced by expressions, not just the other way around, said Paul Ekman, emeritus professor of psychology at the University of California at San Francisco, who has spent decades exploring the connection between emotions and expressions.

    “If you make a facial expression voluntarily, you can change the autonomic and central nervous system to generate that emotion,” he said.

    Meeting People Easier

    But Ekman said the relationship between emotions and expressions is probably too complex to explain Finzi’s finding. It is unlikely, he said, that simply altering one’s expressions can relieve depression.

    More plausible, Ekman said, is that changing expressions can help heighten or decrease emotional states. Or it is possible that by frowning less, patients in Finzi’s study seemed less forbidding to others, which helped to strengthen their social connections. In turn, that may have helped ease the depression, Ekman said.

    But Lewis says he favors the theory that facial muscles influence brain activity directly and points to earlier research that suggests such a neurological link.

    Fake It Till You Make It

    For example, studies have shown that subjects find comedy routines significantly funnier when they hold a pen between their teeth the way a dog holds a bone, a pose that stimulates the muscles used for smiling. Similarly, subjects laugh less when holding a pen between their lips, a pose that mimics frowning.

    Such studies are part of a growing trend in counseling and therapy that focuses on behavioral change — a new approach summed up by the Alcoholics Anonymous slogan “Fake it till you make it” — rather than the stern “talk therapy” of the Freudian era.

    Cognitive behavioral therapy, for instance, teaches patients to alter the physiological feedback cycles of certain conditions by slowing their breathing during panic attacks or cutting the hangdog look during periods of depression.

    But Lewis warns that his and Finzi’s studies both examined small sample groups, so it would be premature, he says, to consider Botox injections — at around $400 each — purely on the basis of their potential for mood enhancement.

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  • midlifelove 5:22 am on June 14, 2009 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: albert eintein, brain, chemical, , , endeavours, , linked, love wins, lucy brown, , move, mri, prairie voles, pursuit, , , , ,   

    Is Love More Powerful than Sex? 

    Sex and romance may seem inextricably linked, but the human brain clearly distinguishes between the two, according to a new study. The upshot: Love is the more powerful emotion.

    The results of brain scans speak to longstanding questions of whether the pursuit of love and sex are different emotional endeavours or whether romance is just warmed over sexual arousal.

    “Our findings show that the brain areas activated when someone looks at a photo of their beloved only partially overlap with the brain regions associated with sexual arousal,” said Arthur Aron of the State University of New York-Stony Brook. “Sex and romantic love involve quite different brain systems.”

    Left side, right side

    The study was small, however, involving 17 young men and women, all of whom had recently fallen madly in love. They filled out questionnaires while their brains were hooked up to a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) system.

    Romance seems to steep in parts of the brain that are rich in dopamine, a chemical known to affect emotions. These brain regions are also linked by other studies to the motivation for rewards.

    “To our surprise, the activation regions associated with intense romantic love were mostly on the right side of the brain, while the activation regions associated with facial attractiveness were mostly on the left,” said Lucy Brown of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

    The study also revealed that as a romance matures, so does the mind.

    “We found several brain areas where the strength of neural activity changed with the length of the romance,” Brown said. “Everyone knows that relationships are dynamic over time, but we are beginning to track what happens in the brain as a love relationship matures.”

    sex

    Love wins

    The processing of romantic feelings involves a “constellation of neural systems.” The researchers — neuroscientists, anthropologists and social psychologists — declare love the clear winner versus sex in terms of its power over the human mind.

    “Romantic love is one of the most powerful of all human experiences,” said study member Helen Fisher, an anthropologist at Rutgers University. “It is definitely more powerful than the sex drive.”

    Animals, too

    There are hints in the study that romance is not a uniquely human trait.

    Some of the changes seen with mature romances were in regions of the brain also associated with pair-bonding in prairie voles. Other studies have found that expressions of attraction in a female prairie vole are linked to a 50 percent hike in dopamine activity in the brain region that corresponds to the location where human romance is processed.

     
  • midlifelove 12:52 am on May 17, 2009 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: addiction, , brain, , , , , hormone, stimulates, sunlight,   

    Breaking the No 4 Food Addiction – Caffeine 

    Do you reach for a caffeine fix every time you’re feeling tired? While some people drink just one cup of coffee a day, there are others who seem to be holding a coffee mug every time you turn around.

    Those who have serious cravings for caffeine throughout the day are most likely suffering from an addiction to caffeine. Caffeine stimulates activity in the brain, which in turn, causes the release of the hormone adrenaline. Despite achieving the desired effect, after the dose of caffeine wears off, it often creates a craving for additional caffeine to recreate the effect.

    coffee

    Breaking Caffeine Cravings

    There are healthier, more effective ways of preventing fatigue throughout the day. First, make sure you are getting enough sleep! Second, exercise daily. Although many people mistakenly think that they will be more tired by exercising, they are actually wrong. Overall, exercise will increase your energy level and will enable you to overcome your food cravings.

    As well:

    • Eat five to six small meals a day and include some protein in each meal. This will help keep your blood sugar stable and provide you with the energy to keep going all day long.
    • Drink at least eight glasses of water. Water will help keep you energized
    • Drink a glass of water or green tea in the morning to help you wake up.
    • Get plenty of fresh air and sunshine each day. Use your usual coffee break to take a little brisk walk outside.
    • Switch to green tea. In addition to tasting great and giving you energy, it is packed with flavonoids and antioxidants, both of which are beneficial to your health.

    Start by cutting down on your caffeine consumption and replace as much of it as possible with green tea and water. Keep cutting more caffeine out every few weeks. Before you know it you will break the caffeine habit for good.

     
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