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Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience

Summer 1990, Vol. 2, No. 3, Pages 239-245.
(doi: 10.1162/jocn.1990.2.3.239)
© 1990 by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Hemispheric Mechanisms Controlling Voluntary and Spontaneous Facial Expressions
Article PDF (1.19 MB)

The capacity of each disconnected cerebral hemisphere to control a variety of facial postures was examined in three split-brain patients. The dynamics of facial posturing were analyzed in 30-msec optical disc frames that were generated off videotape recordings of each patient's response to lateralized stimuli. The results revealed that commands presented to the left hemisphere effecting postures of the lower facial muscles showed a marked asymmetry, with the right side of the face sometimes responding up to 180 msec before the left side of the face. Commands presented to the right hemisphere elicited a response only if the posture involved moving the upper facial muscles. Spontaneous postures filmed during free conversation were symmetrical. The results suggest that while either hemisphere can generate spontaneous facial expressions only the left hemisphere is efficient at generating voluntaly expressions. This contrasts sharply with the fact that both hemispheres can carry out a wide variety of other voluntary movements with the hand and foot.