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Thursday, 15 September 2011

Facial expressions such as smiling or crying develop before birth, new study shows

We all knew that babies develop a considerable amount of their personality and basic facial features while still in the womb but didn't know to what extent they aready arrived with aspects like facial expressions. 

Now scientists have discovered that facial expressions develop while babies are still in the womb. Babies develop a range of facial movements that can actually be identified as smiling or crying. A team of researchers have for the first time been able to show that as a pregnancy moves from 24 to 36 weeks gestation, fetal facial movements become increasingly complex.

The researchers examined video-taped fetal facial movements obtained by 4D ultrasound machines in the later stages of pregnancy. After the fetuses had been found to be healthy at their 20 week scan, the group recorded the same fetuses several times between 24 and 36 weeks of gestation.

Fetuses at 24 weeks, the first stage of observation, were able to move one muscle in their face at a time.They could open their mouth, for example, or stretch their lips. By 35 weeks gestational age, fetuses combined a number of facial muscle movements. They could stretch their lip, lower their eyebrows and deepening the nasolabial furrow all at the same time. Isolated movements are turned into recognisable and increasingly complex expressions, Science Daily reports. Now that's pretty amazing! 

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