12,000

We have over 12,000 students, from over 100 countries, within one of the safest campuses in the UK

93%

93% of Lancaster students go into work or further study within six months of graduating

Home > Research > Publications & Outputs > Can healthy fetuses show facial expressions of ...
View graph of relations

« Back

Can healthy fetuses show facial expressions of “pain” or “distress”?

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published

Article numbere65530
Journal publication date5/06/2013
JournalPLoS ONE
Journal number6
Volume8
Number of pages7
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Background
With advances of research on fetal behavioural development, the question of whether we can identify fetal facial expressions and determine their developmental progression, takes on greater importance. In this study we investigate longitudinally the increasing complexity of combinations of facial movements from 24 to 36 weeks gestation in a sample of healthy fetuses using frame-by-frame coding of 4-D ultrasound scans. The primary aim was to examine whether these complex facial movements coalesce into a recognisable facial expression of pain/distress.

Methodology/Findings
Fifteen fetuses (8 girls, 7 boys) were observed four times in the second and third trimester of pregnancy. Fetuses showed significant progress towards more complex facial expressions as gestational age increased. Statistical analysis of the facial movements making up a specific facial configuration namely “pain/distress” also demonstrates that this facial expression becomes significantly more complete as the fetus matures.

Conclusions/Significance
The study shows that one can determine the normal progression of fetal facial movements. Furthermore, our results suggest that healthy fetuses progress towards an increasingly complete pain/distress expression as they mature. We argue that this is an adaptive process which is beneficial to the fetus postnatally and has the potential to identify normal versus abnormal developmental pathways.

Bibliographic note

Copyright: © 2013 Reissland et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.