A pilot trial, published in the May 15 issue of Dermatologic Surgery, found that botulinum toxin Type A injected into frown lines around the mouth or in the forehead furrows of 10 women eliminated depression symptoms in nine of them and reduced symptoms in the 10th.

According to Eric Finzi, MD, an  aesthetic surgeon in Chevy Chase, Md, and lead author of the study, the facial muscles feed information to the emotion centers of the brain, which in turn responds with chemicals that produce happy or sad feelings. The loop is complete when the brain reinforces the expressions in the face.

Kathleen Delano, 45, of Glenn Dale, Md, was one of the 10 volunteers in the study. Before the injections into five spots on the frown muscles in the face, she scored high on a scale of depression symptoms. Depression was confirmed in an interview by a psychologist.

Two months after the injections, her score and interview showed no symptoms of depression. Over several weeks, Delano found herself talking to people more, getting out more, and smiling more.

But the flaws in this study are numerous, according to Marilynn Hammond, a Mobile, Ala, psychiatrist.

“This should not suggest that this is in any way a proven treatment for depression,”  says Hammond. She maintains that future studies should follow patients longer, have a control group of similar people who get a placebo treatment, and use a more thorough psychiatric evaluation.

[www.latimes.com, May 22, 2006]