Facial expressions

Florinda Ceriani, Roberto Fogliani, Alessandra Kustermann

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


The introduction of 4D ultrasonography has made it possible to study the ontogeny and development of facial expressions in utero, albeit with some limitations. Interest in facial expressions dates back to antiquity and for centuries had to do with reading facial morphology or so-called 'physiognomy' (from the Greek words physys meaning nature and gnosis meaning knowledge). Aristotle wrote the first treatise on physiognomy in which he compared physiognomic traits of various people with animals. Such traits were assumed to indicate various tendencies ranging from stupidity to courage. Still today we say that so-and-so has an equine or horse-like face or an aquiline nose (from the Latin aquila meaning eagle). Pythagoras, Hippocrates and Galen used physiognomy as an important medical investigative tool for diagnosing pathology (from the Greek pathos meaning to suffer or display an emotion, and the Latin patior indicating suffering and affliction). If someone had a bilious face or was a lymphatic type, it was considered to indicate a possible weakness of the underlying apparatuses.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDevelopment of Normal Fetal Movements: The First 25 Weeks of Gestation
PublisherSpringer Milan
Number of pages10
ISBN (Print)9788847014015
Publication statusPublished - 2010


  • Anger
  • Autism
  • Cross-modal integration
  • Disgust
  • Fear
  • Happiness
  • Mirror neurons
  • Physiognomy
  • Sadness
  • Surprise
  • Tongue protrusion
  • Vocalizations

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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