Psychological Effects of Botox and New Alzheimer’s Studies

• A person who has had facial injections of Botox may have a diminished ability to read others’ emotions in face-to-face interactions. It is known that we detect what others feel by mimicking their facial expressions or by visualizing their expressions in our minds. In a study at the University of Southern California, researchers found that people who had facial injections of Botox (which paralyzes facial muscles) were less adept at reading the emotions of others than people who had injections of a soft filler that smoothes wrinkles without paralyzing muscles. Another study suggested that Botox injections could even make it more difficult for a person to feel his or her own emotions. (WebMD Magazine, Sept, 2011; Social Psychological and Personality Science, April 21, 2011)

• Two new Alzheimer’s Disease studies are making news. Typically, an early manifestation of the disease is a decline in memory or cognitive functions associated with the accumulation of masses in the brain called “plaques.” A pilot study showed that daily misting of 20 – 40 IUs of insulin into the nasal chamber over a four-month period led to marked improvement in people with mild to severe dementia. Further, analysis of their cerebrospinal fluid showed a decrease in markers associated with the formation of plaques in the brain. The other new study was concerned with a relationship between antidepressants and Alzheimer’s. The research showed that there were fewer plaques in the brains of mice receiving antidepressant drugs over a long time period as compared with mice not receiving the drug. One scientist said “We think depression pushes you toward dementia, but antidepressant treatment pushes you toward protection.” The big question now is whether long-term use of antidepressants in people protects them against dementia. So far, only a single study addresses this question. In it, a group of 186 elderly people without Alzheimer’s agreed to have their brains scanned using a special technique that shows plaques in the brain. Individuals who had taken antidepressants in the last five years showed half as many plaques as those who hadn’t taken antidepressants. The reader should understand that the brains of older people always show a few plaques, but in those with Alzheimer’s Disease plaques are so abundant they interfere with brain function. (Craft et al, 2011, Archives of Neurology, Sept. 12; Science News, Sept. 10, 2011; article/749616, Sept. 13, 2011)

• More people die from Alzheimer’s Disease, or complications associated with the disease, than from most other disease states. Between 2000 and 2008, the number of such deaths in the U.S. increased 66 percent. The good news is that during this same period, deaths from breast cancer are down 3 percent, prostate cancer down 8 percent, heart disease down 13 percent, stroke down 20 percent, and HIV down 20 percent. (Science News, Sept. 10, 2011; data from the Alzheimer’s Association)

• It’s well-known that much of America’s infrastructure is showing its age, especially in urban areas. One major problem is cracked and leaking underground pipes that are supposed to carry human waste to treatment plants, and another system of pipes designed to collect fairly clean storm water and direct it into streams or lakes. A group from the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee monitored storm water outflows in Milwaukee over a four-year period and tested for bacteria from human feces. The group discovered that contamination by raw sewage was present in all 45 of Milwaukee’s outflows, indicating that both systems of pipes were leaking. Similar findings are being reported in urban areas all over the U.S. (McLellan et al, Water Research, Aug., 2011; Science News, Sept. 20, 2011)