Rare Congenital Facial Paralysis (Möbius Syndrome) Offers New Insights into Social Interaction; Use of Alternative Communication Strategies Helpful to Both Victims & Their Normal Communication Partners

Möbius syndrome is an extremely rare, congenital facial paralysis that is usually bilateral and complete. The paralysis leaves the face expressionless, which makes it difficult for persons with Möbius syndrome to express emotions or indicate that they understand a conversation partner's information. This severely inhibits interaction and rapport--creating a challenge, not only for the persons with Möbius syndrome, but also for their conversation partners who can become insecure and nervous. An international group of researchers centered at Denmark’s Aarhus University's Interacting Minds Centre has completed a study involving five Danish teenagers with Möbius syndrome to determine if it is possible to teach persons who lack facial expressivity to use alternative communication strategies. "Our research shows that the teenagers significantly improved rapport and interaction with their conversation partners without Möbius syndrome after just two days' workshop in compensatory communication strategies. And interestingly, it was not only the teenagers with Möbius who changed their behavior; the non-Möbius interlocutors became much more expressive with both gestures and voices," says postdoc John Michael, Ph.D., from the University of Copenhagen's Center for Subjectivity Research. Dr. Michael is the lead author of the open-access article “ Training in Compensatory Strategies Enhances Rapport in Interactions Involving People with Möbius Syndrome,” which was published online on October 8, 2015 in the journal Frontiers in Endovascular and Interventional Neurology. Möbius syndrome occurs in only 2 to 20 births per million, so it is an extremely rare condition, which is why the researchers only had five Danish teenagers with whom to test their hypothesis.
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