Why Bangor Is Smiles Ahead; EDUCATION WALES Research into Facial Expressions Could Help People with Williams Syndrome

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Byline: Moira Sharkey

NEW research into how the brain processes facial expressions could lead to improved ways of educating and training for people with a rare genetic neurodevelopmental condition called Williams syndrome

Dr Debra Mills, a Reader at Bangor University's School of Psychology, says that, as a result of research, she and her team has learned more about exactly when and where the brain processes positive and negative emotional expressions.

Her research using a combined electrophysiological and brain imaging (fMRI) approach was conducted jointly with colleagues at Stanford University and the Salk Institute in the USA.

They discovered that a part of the brain which responds to fearful expressions in most people is actually more active as a result of happy faces in people with this disorder.

The research, which is published this month in the Journal of Neuroscience, focused on individuals with Williams syndrome, a rare genetic condition. Along with other traits, people with Williams syndrome have a heightened response to happy or smiling faces and are less likely to react to aggressive or angry faces.

People with this condition can be friendly and gregarious - so friendly that they can place themselves in danger. …