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How Facial Masking in Parkinson’s Influences Perception

[The Parkinson's Podcast™]

How Facial Masking in Parkinson’s Influences Perception


Learn about Facial Masking & How It Influences Perception

“The face is the primary way we communicate with other people, We tend to believe the actions of a person more than their words. So, a person with Parkinson’s disease may be saying that they are really enjoying life, but may not be believed.”

-Linda Tickle-Degnen, Professor and Chair of Physical Therapy at the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at Tufts

Facial masking is caused by facial muscles that become immobilized. When this happens, a person with Parkinson’s can look like they have a blank or neutral expression on their face, even if they’re feeling anything but neutral.

This is not only challenging for the person with Parkinson’s who would like to align how they feel on the outside with how they feel on the inside, but it’s a challenge for others in their life who don’t know what facial masking is. People without experience speaking to someone who has Parkinson’s may construe their blank or neutral expression to mean a lack of interest, displeasure, low sociability or low cognition. That can get in the way of communication and the ability to relate.

Facial Masking Parkinson's

In this episode, our host Kelsey Phinney, whose father has Parkinson’s and has struggled with facial masking for some time, speaks with Professor Linda Tickle-Degnen from Tufts University on what facial masking is, the cultural and social implications of facial masking and a few of the ways people with Parkinson’s and their health care providers can shrink the communication divide and help the person with Parkinson’s be better understood.

Concepts Mentioned in this Podcast & Further Reading

Facial Masking
Does facial amimia impact the recognition of facial emotions? An EMG study in Parkinson’s disease?
Specific impairments in the recognition of emotional facial expressions in Parkinson’s disease
The influence of facial masking and sex on older adults’ impressions of individuals with Parkinson’s disease
Deficits in the mimicry of facial expressions in Parkinson’s disease
Culture, gender, and healthcare stigma: practitioners’ response to facial masking experienced by people with Parkinson’s disease

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