Research is helping reveal how human and primate brains process and interpret facial expressions, and the role of facial mimicry in everything from deciphering an unclear smile to establishing relationships of power and status.
The findings were presented at Neuroscience 2012, the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience and the world's largest source of emerging news about brain science and health.
Facial mimicry -- a social behavior in which the observer automatically activates the same facial muscles as the person she is imitating -- plays a role in learning, understanding, and rapport. Mimicry can activate muscles that control both smiles and frowns, and evoke their corresponding emotions, positive and negative. The studies reveal new roles of facial mimicry and some of its underlying brain circuitry.
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"Today's findings highlight the role of facial expressions in communication and social behavior," said press conference moderator Martha Farah, PhD, of the University of Pennsylvania, an expert on brain development and poverty. "Brain circuits that interpret the face appear ever more specialized, from primate 'eye cells,' to brain feedback that enables us to discern meaning through facial mimicry."
This research was supported by national funding agencies, such as the National Institutes of Health, as well as private and philanthropic organizations.
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