NEW YORK, Jan. 28, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- A smile is a symbol of joy and friendship that transcends language and culture. While its meaning may be clear, the mechanics of a smile are less well known, says noted Manhattan plastic surgeon and facial specialist Dr. Norman Pastorek.
"While a beautiful smile seems like a simple expression of emotion, it is actually a complex neurological response to emotional stimuli," says Dr. Pastorek. "A smile—the effects of which can sometimes be appreciated for years—is born in less than a second."
How a Smile is Created
The 43 muscles in the face can create thousands of unique facial expressions that transmit a wide range of emotions, from absolute happiness to profound sorrow. The primary muscle groups involved with smiling are the zygomaticus major muscles in the cheeks, which pull the corners of the mouth into a grin. The orbicularis oculi muscles—those that surround the eyes and lift the cheeks—are also involved in creating a smile. Many of the other muscles in the face can contribute to an endless variety of expressions that can be interpreted as a smile.
How to Identify a Genuine Smile
Smiles can be forced, but science has identified the difference between a voluntary smile and a spontaneous smile. The eyes are the key to a true involuntary expression of joy called the Duchenne smile, says Dr. Pastorek. Guillaume Duchenne was an early 19th century French physician whose research helped establish the field of neurology. In his work, Duchenne studied the physiology of facial expressions and discovered that a true smile must use both zygomaticus major and the orbicularis oculi muscles. As the latter cannot be contracted voluntarily, he defined a true smile as one that is spontaneous and always includes the muscles around the eyes.
The eyebrows dip slightly and creases form around the eyes in a real smile, and most true smiles are symmetrical. Spontaneous, emotionally driven smiles originate from the cingulate cortex of the brain, while voluntary social smiles are generated from the motor cortex.
How Smiling Makes You Happy
Researchers in a variety of disciplines including psychology, anthropology, and biology have studied smiles and their effects. Research has shown that a smile not only indicates that you are happy, but the act of smiling can itself make you happy. Both voluntary and spontaneous smiles produce similar effects on brain activity that translate into feelings of happiness. Still other studies based on photographs revealed that the expression of a Duchenne smile indicates a positive emotional state and may lead to a longer, happier life.
A genuine, radiant smile is a wondrous result of biological interactions that transmits joy, happiness, and friendliness. The benefits of a simple smile can last a lifetime.
About Dr. Pastorek: A top facial plastic surgeon in New York City, Norman Pastorek, M.D., P.C., F.A.C.S., has been elected by his peers to The Best Doctors in America® and Castle Connolly's America's Top Doctors® every year since the inception of these guides. In 2011, he was also named to U.S. News & World Report's Top Doctors list. His office is at 12 East 88th Street, New York, New York 10128. Reach him at http://www.normanpastorekmd.com or call (212) 987-4700.
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SOURCE Dr. Norman Pastorek