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today Nobel Biocare Global Symposium June 24, 2016

science & research 7 Nobel Biocare Global Symposium Taking life at more than face value The face can express who we are as well as what we mean to say by Prof. Jill A. Helms, U.S.  We come into this world primed to connect with the faces around us. This ability is liter- ally hardwired into our neural circuitry. There is a specialized region in our brain, lo- cated in the temporal lobe in a region called the fusiform gyrus, that is filled with neurons that preferentially fire whenever a face comes into view. Within minutes of birth, ba- bies begin using this brain region; studies demonstrate that even very young infants show a strong preference for looking at faces over all other objects. The brain is responsible for coordinating every single activity that keeps you alive; and some terribly precious real estate in the brain is allocated to a pint-sized structure whose only apparent purpose is to become activated in response to a face. Since evo- lution is constantly shaping the brain and adapting its function to ensure our survival, the fact that a brain region is dedicated to this task indicates that facial recognition must be essential for our survival. But why? One reason is that the face is the means by which we communicate. Thirteen years after On the Origin of Species was published, Charles Darwin addressed this very ques- tion in The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals. In this book, Darwin wrote, “The welfare of mankind depends on the expression and recognition of emo- tion.” And if you do not believe Darwin, then witness any adult with an infant. Of all the motor skills that infants must master, none is as important as mimicking the facial ges- tures of people around them. Even at a very early age, humans devote a great deal of attention and energy to teaching infants the movements required for facial expression. In fact, we know that children who are incapa- ble of or uninterested in learning this task are often later diagnosed with conditions such as autism. This focus on the face ultimately trans- lates into our faces becoming central to our sense of identity. One does not need to look much further than children’s drawings to see this. Ask a 5-year-old to draw a human being and you will get a stick figure with a lolli- pop-sized head, complete with a face. The face defines the entity. Illustrators of children’s books exploit this very characteristic: Everything of emo- tional importance to a child is illustrated with a face. The sun has a face. The moon has a face. Thomas the Tank Engine has a face. It is a way to personalize the world. Beauty, a sign of well-being The face is not only important as a means to communicate; it also serves to advertise our health, youth and vitality. A face that projects an image of great health indicates a good choice for a mate. Across all ethnic groups and epochs, the general hallmarks of beauty have been sym- metry and a balance in proportions. Surpris- ingly perhaps, people universally agree that the most beautiful faces are actually those that are the most average-looking. Experi- ments using composite images based on hun- dreds of women’s faces have demonstrated that when people are confronted with the im- age of Ms. Average-Face World—regardless of the viewers’ ethnic background—they uni- formly agree that she is more beautiful than the individual faces that make up the com- posite. In short, as a species, we find the av- erage face to be the most beautiful. Reverse side of the coin Diseases and injuries can create asym- metries and imbalances in the proportions of the face that can be fatal for social inter- action. Because the face is often the calling card of a disease, people often intuitively shy away from disfigured people. Looking differ- ent on the outside, of course, does not mean that you are different on the inside. Never- theless, there is no denying that a physical transformation of our face powerfully affects the way we view ourselves and the way oth- ers respond to us. Although beauty is best defined by the kindness, compassion, intelligence and warmth of an individual, it is also expressed as optimism and perseverance in the face of adversity. For those who have suffered a mishap or a disease that leaves them looking different, reconstructive surgery and/or prostheses supported by osseointegrated implants can be decisive for living a good life outside the confines of the home.  More to explore! To view Prof. Jill A. Helms’s TEDx Talk, titled “Reconsidering beauty,” please visit TED-helms.  The face is the means by which we communicate. Of all the motor skills that infants must master in the first few years of life, none is as important as mimicking the facial gestures of people around them. About the Author A member of the scientific commit- tee for the 2016 NobelBiocareGlobal Symposium and a professor in the De- partment of Surgery at Stanford University, Dr. Jill A. Helms car- ries out research in the field of regenerative medicine, collaborating with experts in bio- engineering, materials science, physics and the life sciences. In this article, she explains why reconstructive craniofacial surgery can be decisive for the well-being of a deformed or injured patient.autaeratem nis estiunt otatur?  Across all ethnic groups and epochs, the general hallmarks of beauty have been symmetry and a balance in proportions. © Eugene Sergeev/

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