Fetal Facial Expressions

Many people have heard of the endearing term ‘baby face”.  New scientific findings reveal that facial expressions begin even earlier than with newborn babies.  Science suggests that complex combinations associated with recognizable facial expressions occur as a fetus develops in the womb.

This new study reported on by LiveScience shows that as a fetus develops their facial expressions become very complex and can be recognized as combinations associated with known facial expressions.

Does this reinforce the universality of the seven basic facial expressions of emotion?  Well, more research needs to be conducted to confirm that but it is interesting.

Lead researcher and senior lecturer at the University of Durham in the United Kingdom, Nadja Reissland noted that these facial expression don’t necessarily mean that the fetuses were experiencing emotion, “We can see the expressions which we can recognize; we can’t say whether the fetus has emotion.  They have yet the cognition necessary to have the emotions.”

The study, which appeared in August in the journal PLoS ONE, used 4-D ultrasound images to track the facial motions, and it’s main focus was on expressions of crying and laughing.  However, Reissland is looking into future research on additional facial expression of emotion such as anger and sadness.

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