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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter January 28, 2017

Fetal face as important indicator of fetal brain function

Mohamed Ahmed Mostafa AboEllail and Toshiyuki Hata


Fetuses show various facial expressions, such as blinking, yawning, sucking, mouthing, tongue expulsion, scowling, and smiling, assessed by four-dimensional ultrasound from the early second trimester of pregnancy. Moreover, some fetuses demonstrate emotion-like behaviors as noted in infants, children, and adults. Selective fetal responses to stimuli indicate a high degree of brain development, which is reflected in the facial reactions. The fetal face with its movements and expressions can mirror the fetal brain function and development during different stages of the fetus in utero. The fetal face might represent the key to opening the box containing the secrets of fetal brain function and development. Four-dimensional ultrasound may be an important modality in current and future research on fetal facial expressions and assist in the evaluation of the fetal brain function.

Corresponding author: Toshiyuki Hata, MD, PhD, Department of Perinatology and Gynecology, Kagawa University Graduate School of Medicine, 1750-1 Ikenobe, Miki, Kagawa 761-0739, Japan, Tel.: +81-(0) 87-891-2174, Fax: +81-(0) 87-891-2175


The work reported in this paper was supported by a Grant-in-Aid for scientific Research on Innovative Areas “Constructive Developmental Science” (No.24119004) from The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, Japan.

Author’s statement

  1. Conflict of interest: Authors state no conflict of interest.

  2. Materials and methods: Informed consent: Informed consent has been obtained from all individuals included in this study.

  3. Ethical approval: The research related to human subject use has complied with all the relevant national regulations, and institutional policies, and is in accordance with the tenets of the Helsinki Declaration, and has been approved by the authors’ institutional review board or equivalent committee.


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Received: 2016-11-24
Accepted: 2016-12-20
Published Online: 2017-1-28
Published in Print: 2017-8-28

©2017 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston