Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Baby Faces
30 June 2013

Baby Faces

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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