A smile without a smile
A rare case of the Moebius syndrome
My recent interest in the way the human body works and exploring in & outs of the body has got me into some reading some fascinating stuff. So you might find a lot of the next articles which will be related to finding out how our body works. For the past week, I have been reading about our nervous system and the complexities with which it has evolved.
Being the most complicated system in our human body the nervous system is spread all around our body over 60kms in length. It helps all the parts of the body to communicate with each other. It also reacts to changes both outside and inside the body by using both electrical and chemical means to send and receive messages.
Making a complex intricate system is no easy task, thanks to evolution for getting there, from single-celled to multi-celledn organisms to making muscle, nerves, brain, etc. Some interesting facts that I read on this:
Our body has almost 100 trillion neural connections in the brain.
It controls everything in our body from eating to sleeping to farting
The fastest signal transmission in the body occurs in the alpha motor neurons within the spinal cord. They transmit a signal at 268 miles per hour.
As we age, our brain shrinks by about 1-2 grams every year due to the loss of neurons.
Now that we have some sense of the complexity, imagine the number of things that have to go right for a human embryo to develop into a healthy baby without any complications. One thing missing or at the wrong location -and we can have a defect or a disability.
Reading more into it, I discovered about different problems that arise due to the absence or underdevelopment of certain nerves. One such problem is Moebius syndrome. Before I talk about it think about this:
Facial expressions are fundamental pieces of communication that we encounter and process, oftentimes, unconsciously every day. Most of us don’t realize how much facial expressions help us to analyze the situations and people around us, because it comes naturally. What if you were unable to express your emotions through your facial expressions? Life would be very different. Imagine not being able to show that youy are sad or expressing happiness when you are feeling joyful?
Moebius syndrome is a rare birth defect caused by the absence or underdevelopment of the 6th and 7th cranial nerves, which control eye movements and facial expressions. Approximately 2000 cases exist throughout the world currently.
The reason/cause of this is still being researched because different groups/types of this syndrome currently exist. From a clinical point of view, regardless of the site of malformation, the result is the absence of a functional neuromuscular system in the affected regions.
Researchers have long known that facial expressions are crucial to social interaction and have categorized them in great detail. They know which expressions are universal; they can distinguish slight differences in expression, for example between a polite smile and a genuine one.
Still, a central question remains: How does the brain interpret others’ expressions so quickly and accurately?
During a social exchange, people subconsciously mirror each other’s reactions like surprise, disgust or delight. But what happens when a person can’t mimic expressions. Well the best thing is that their feelings are still there, it’s just the facial muscles not being able to contract.
So are these people happy? Well yes and no, it depends on how these people deal with social situations. It can get quite difficult to deal for sire, but it’s surely not the end. Differnet cues like hand gestures, eye movement, humour all help out in these cases to express the behaviour.
A researcher Ms Bogart, who is a victim herself, has been studying this for long to find out what the best nonverbal communication techniques are, so it could be taught to people who are socially awkward for any reason.
Well that’s it for this article, will leave out some resources at the end so that you can read up more into what’s happening in this.
A great video on the Nervous system and its evolution -