The face of fear


Specific activities are associated with characteristic, facial thermal signatures. For
example, chewing gum is accompanied by warming over the mandibular region that
corresponds to a 20% increase in energy expenditure (figure (A) before and (B) after
chewing; arrows indicate local warming). To investigate how regional, facial blood
flow changes with fright, six individuals were startled with a sudden loud noise.
Facial thermal imaging was done in a silent, darkened, temperature control
laboratory (22° C) with an uncooled thermal camera (Raytheon, Explor IR,
Lexington, MA, USA). There was instantaneous periorbital warming and cheek
cooling in all individuals. Figure (C) is a facial thermal image before and (D) 300 ms
after the startle. Startling is associated with instantaneous increases in blood flow to
eye musculature and redistribution of blood away from the cheeks. Facial thermal
signatures can convey the psychological state of a person without physical contact.

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James A. Levine, Ioannis Pavlidis, Murray Cooper