Breathe-Rite® Strips for a Mood Boost?
Breathe Rite® strips are commonly sold for reducing snoring during sleep. They are small, semi-rigid plastic strips with adhesive toward the ends to allow them to be affixed to the skin.
The strips are normally attached across the bridge of the nose, to lift the skin over the sinuses. But they can easily be attached flat across the frown muscles instead, preventing the muscles from fully contracting.
Wearing a Breathe Rite® strip in this way looks a bit odd, as you can see below. But a number of people who have tried it have told me that fixing the frown muscles with one of these strips has a distinctly beneficial effect on mood. In my own experience, the effect takes about a minute to kick in, and then lasts at least as long as the strip remains in place. You can try it for yourself and see what happens.
Where did this idea come from?
It has been reported anecdotally that Botox® cosmetic injections in the brow and other areas of the face can lead to improved mood, even to the extent of helping patients with intractable depression to recover for as long as Botox® persists in the facial muscles.
Some researchers suggest that this effect may occur because of a role of facial muscle mobility in cognitive processing of emotions. For instance, frowning could be a necessary part of feeling and responding to troubled emotions, so that when the frown muscles can't contract because of Botox® treatment, emotions are essentially paralyzed as well. Indeed, a recent study showed that people given Botox® cosmetic injections in the frown area display slightly-slowed comprehension of angry and sad sentences compared to happy sentences. This research, however, did not rule out the possibility that such slowed comprehension might represent a shift to a deeper, more effective mode of processing for angry and sad emotions, rather than a "paralyzing" of emotional processing, as it has been proclaimed by journalists.
Others have suggested that the effect of Botox® on mood results from the cosmetic improvement in the patients' appearance, and a corresponding rise in self-esteem. If this explanation were true, however, a treatment that immobilizes the frown muscles without improving appearance should have no effect on mood.
Of course, one simple way to temporarily immobilize the frown muscles, without resorting to Botox®, is to fix and hold them in place with something rigid. Enter Breathe Rite® strips.
So does this mean that facial muscle mobility is essential for cognitive processing of troubling emotions?
Well, not necessarily. The problem is, a number of treatments to the frown muscles that do NOT significantly affect mobility -- such as transdermal delivery of neuroactive herbal substances, or application of cold (but not heat), or of microcurrent -- all seem to produce a mood boost similar to that obtainable from fixing the frown muscles. And these treatments can induce their effects upon application to a variety of sensitive locations on the body, including many far removed from the face. All of this is in addition to fact that, as I've pointed out, the slightly-slowed processing of troubling emotions observed with Botox® immobilization of the facial muscles does not necessarily indicate an interference or block to these emotions. Yet such a block would minimally need to be demonstrated for facial muscle mobility to be considered essential for emotional processing.
Prepared by R Rush Wayne, Ph.D. Questions? Comments? Contact Rush at rushwayne at q (dot) com, or on Twitter @NeuroShft