Happiness Without the Smile: Moebius Syndrome

Facial expressions are fundamental pieces of communication that we encounter and process, often times, unconsciously everyday.

Many people take them for granted and don’t realize how much facial expressions help us to analyze the situations and people around us.

What if you were unable to express your emotions through your facial expressions? Life would be very different.

Matilyn Branch is a 6-year-old who can’t smile reports Lubbock Online Journal.  She and her family have learned to adjust to the very different kind of communication that comes without facial expressions.  Matilyn has Moebius Syndrome, a neurological disorder, which afflicts the muscles of the face often times making even blinking difficult.

Moebius Syndrome is a paralysis or extreme weakness of facial muscles.   This means that Matilyn cannot smile or even move her eyes from side to side.  Her first grade teacher says that does not stop her from excelling in school.

“This school year I have learned as much from Matilyn as she has learned from me,” said Braquet. “Matilyn is a very sweet girl and an amazing student.”

Her parents also comment,

“We want people to know that if they see us in public, or anyone else who is different, to not be scared,” said Harvey. “Be respectful and … come and talk to us.”

 On another note regarding facial expressions, Live Science reports on new research that suggests infants show bias when looking at faces.

The research shows that babies, as young as 9 months, are better able to recognize emotions via facial expressions from people of their own ethnic group.

Infants that are younger than 9 months are able to do so regardless of the person’s racial background.

“These results suggest that biases in face recognition and perception begin in preverbal infants, well before concepts about race are formed. It is important for us to understand the nature of these biases in order to reduce or eliminate [the biases],” said study researcher Lisa Scott, a psychologist at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

Read a past article written in the NY Times featuring research done on Moebius syndrome by Dr. David Matsumoto and Kathleen Bogart

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