Major depression is a common and serious disease that is often resistant to routine pharmacologic and psychotherapeutic treatment approaches.

Dermatologist Eric Finzi says in a study of ten patients who were experiencing major depression in spite of treatment, all were less depressed after receiving injections of the cosmetic form of botulinum toxin into facial muscles which removed their ability to frown.

All the women, aged 36 to 63, were evaluated by clinical psychologist and coauthor, Erika Wasserman PhD before the treatment and none were seeking cosmetic changes.

Of the group 9 of the 10 patients were no longer depressed 2 months after treatment and the tenth patient had an improvement in mood.

Finzi and Wasserman say these, as far as they know, are the first reported cases of depression to be treated with botulinum toxin A.

Dr. Finzi is so confident of the success of the treatment that he has suggested doing a larger study and has applied for a patent to use botulinum toxin A to treat depression.

Other experts in the field support the findings and say they too have noticed similar results.

Some suggest that facial expressions may trigger an emotional response to the brain.

The research is published in the current edition of Dermatologic Surgery.

To address the controversy surrounding the use of Prozac in children and in pregnant women, Enikolopov's group is currently testing the effects of the drug on brain neurogenesis in juvenile and pregnant mice. The results of those experiments may provide valuable information for assessing the possible effects of Prozac and related drugs on fetal and adolescent brain development.

The researchers are currently using the approach and tools they've developed to explore whether other treatments for depression--including other drugs and deep brain stimulation--act in the same way as Prozac or in different ways. In addition, the scientists are screening for new drugs that expand the production of brain neurons by stimulating ANP cells to multiply.

In collaboration with NASA researchers, experiments are also under way at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory to assess how neurogenesis in the adult brain might be influenced by long-term, Mission-to-Mars levels of exposure to a particular kind of damaging radiation that's prevalent in space.