As adults it’s hard to resist pulling faces at babies to see their reaction. Perhaps surprisingly babies have been practicing pulling faces for weeks before they are even born. A recent study shows that between 24 and 36 weeks gestation healthy infants make spontaneous facial expressions, increasing in complexity and co-ordination as they develop. In the ultrasound scan above, the 32-week infant on the right pulls a distress-like expression. However, it‘s not known if the expressions relate to emotional responses as they will in later life, or are perhaps just the body trialling the use and co-ordination of certain muscles. Knowing more about how facial expressions develop in foetuses could provide early warning of abnormal development or unhealthy in utero conditions.
Written by Mary-Clare Hallsworth
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