Voluntary and spontaneous facial mimicry toward other's emotional expression in patients with Parkinson's disease

June Kang, Dilara Derva, Do Young Kwon, Christian Wallraven

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


A "masked face", that is, decreased facial expression is considered as one of the cardinal symptoms among individuals with Parkinson's disease (PD). Both spontaneous and voluntary mimicry toward others' emotional expressions is essential for both social communication and emotional sharing with others. Despite many studies showing impairments in facial movements in PD in general, it is still unclear whether voluntary, spontaneous, or both types of mimicry are affected and how the impairments affect the patients' quality of life. We investigated to verify whether impairments in facial movements happen for spontaneous as well as for voluntary expressions by quantitatively comparing muscle activations using surface electromyography. Dynamic facial expressions of Neutral, Anger, Joy, and Sad were presented during recordings in corrugator and zygomatic areas. In the spontaneous condition, participants were instructed to simply watch clips, whereas in the voluntary condition they were instructed to actively mimic the stimuli. We found that PD patients showed decreased mimicry in both spontaneous and voluntary conditions compared to a matched control group, although movement patterns in each emotion were similar in the two groups. Moreover, whereas the decrease in mimicry correlated with the decrease not in a health-related quality of life index (PDQ), it did so in a more subjective measurement of general quality of life index (SWB). The correlation between facial mimicry and subjective well-being index suggests that the 'masked face' symptom deteriorates patients' quality of life in a complex way affecting social and psychological aspects, which in turn may be linked to the increased depression risk among individuals with PD.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0214957
JournalPloS one
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2019 Apr

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Kang et al.This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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