Monday, 10 November 2014

Smiles & neural basis for emotion recognition

How Do We Understand Emotions? A Neural Basis for Emotion Recognition
In any social interactions, one person typically provides a behavioural response to the affective state or social cues of another person.  It is the ability to accurately recognize and process the emotions of others that provides people with the skills and ability to have positive and socially appropriate interactions and relationships.  We may sometimes not realize how important the emotional aspect of a conversation is for conveying a message to another person. Often, a smile or frown can completely change how others will evaluate our moods, attitudes, and it will influence how they choose to approach us of interact with us.

... it is believed that emotion recognition is innate and universal, it is an ability that is learned over a lifetime. The ability to recognize emotional signals is critical for social interactions and necessary for social development, so how are people able to recognize emotional stimuli in their environment and therefore learn basic and complex emotions? There are several cortical and subcortical structures in the brain that are involved in the recognition of emotional stimuli, some involved in a specifically designed neural network to recognize facial expressions. Facial expressions such as smiles provide the greatest emotional cues for emotion recognition. Emotions such as sadness, fear, and happiness are processed and interpreted within an expansive neural network including the orbitofrontal cortex and cerebral regions such as the insula, the basal ganglia, the prefrontal cortex, and the amygdala. It is the combination of these structures processing the information from the external environment (such as someone frowning) that allows us to evaluate emotional stimuli and regulate our social and emotional behaviour to know how we should respond or react.

Since emotion recognition relies on a large scale distributed network, it is not entirely clear how this interaction leads to recognition of emotion. However, studies have illustrated that lesions or damage to these cortical and subcortical structures involved in the recognition of facial expressions can lead to impairments in the recognition of basic emotions such as fear, sadness, and anger.  The next time you are interacting with someone or are involved in a conversation, take the time to observe and consider how their facial expression changing from a smile to a frown can completely change how we choose to interact with that individual.
written by Orla Tyrrell, Special Needs Supervisor / SPP facilitator BODiWORKS Institute

Smiling Faces

Some say that the eyes are "the window to the soul" then what are SMILING FACES?

Perhaps as we look around at who is smiling and who is not we can derive simply that those who are smiling are happy. I think there is a difference between contentment and happy. Feeling happy can be an immediate expression to a thought or reaction to a stimuli that gives that unexpected smile in the face.  Contentment can be expressed without a smile. Sometimes a stoic look can mean that the thoughts are pleasing, but not to pleasing that it requires the muscles of the face to erupt into a smile.

If children are happy they have a hard time not smiling unless they have barriers to a smile. Such as in Autism where the connection between what should or could be shown outwardly does not occur in context (most often).  Are they smiling inside? 

In a social context what can be taught?  Is smiling a learned activity?