ABOUT AUTISM: Autism is a complex developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life. There is no known cure, although therapies and behavioral interventions can remedy specific symptoms. Autism is the result of a neurological disorder that affects the normal functioning of the brain, resulting in impaired social interaction and communication skills. Both children and adults with autism typically show difficulties in verbal and non-verbal communication, social interactions, and leisure or play activities. For instance, autistic children often can't understand such social cues as tone of voice or facial expressions, and usually lack empathy. They may also engage in repetitive behaviors, such as rocking and twirling.
ABOUT THE FACE AND EXPRESSIONS: The muscles in our face allow us to express emotion without speaking. There are seven basic human emotions with very clear facial signals: anger, sadness, fear, surprise, disgust, contempt and happiness. To make an expression, we move the muscles that lie beneath the skin. Unlike other skeletal muscles, which are attached to bones, the facial muscles are attached to other muscles, or to the skin. So even a tiny contraction in one such muscle can pull the skin and change your expression. All these muscles are connected by the facial nerve. The facial nerve contains about 10,000 individual nerve fibers and works like a telephone cable. It carries electrical impulses to a specific facial muscle, and this signal is what enables us to laugh, cry, smile, or frown. The facial nerve also carries nerve impulses to the tear glands, saliva glands, and the middle ear, as well as transmitting taste from the front of the tongue.
The Human Factors and Ergonomics Society contributed to the information contained in the TV portion of this report.