How Smiles Control Us All
The neuronal signals for smiles usually start in the cortex of our brain. From there they travel to the deeper part ... [then to] a nerve that's large enough to be visible to the naked eye, called the seventh cranial nerve, carries the signal in front of the ear to the more central part of the face, where it reaches the smile muscle.
Eric Finzi, MD, PhD
Notes that little cognitive research on smiling as been performed using the new technologies of brain study. Many existing studies suggest that smiling may decrease depression and increase happiness.
Interestingly, one can distinguish whether a smile is real or fake because true smiles trigger more facial nerves, causing wrinkling in the area of the eyes.
Although smiling does not have to involve social activity, the most common cause of a smile is social stimulation.
While the correlation is not certain, people who rarely socialize tend to experience more depression.
Smiling has a positive effect on emotions, which causes a reduction in the unhealthy hormones that stress produces in the body. So, smiling has a benefits both mental and physical health.
In studies of patients who had an inability to smile because of brain damage, scientists found that patients were more likely to become depressed than people who can smile. This may not be just because of the lack of smiling, but could also be attributed to reduced social interaction.
While happiness may be triggered by social interaction rather than smiling, it is likely that the neurological function of smiling is more dominant. So, smiling likely provides a positive feedback loop in the brain, the smile triggering happiness, and the happiness initiating more smiling.
Darin's note: Other studies have indicated that even fake smiles have positive health benefits, reducing stress caused hormones. The reason for this seems to be that the brain does not distinguish between real and fake smiles. Neuroscientists provide evidence for this through fMRI studies, which show the same areas of the brain are activated by both fake and real smiles.
Interested? Click the title or image to read on.
Source is The Atlantic
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