Susan Coulson PhD, Roger Adams PhD, Glen Croxson MBBS.FRACS.
Consider how it would be if you couldn’t smile because one side of your face didn’t move when you willed it to because you had a unilateral facial paralysis. This is the problem that we are conducting a research study on with funding from the Garnet Passe and Rodney Williams Memorial Foundation. Disorders of the facial nerve such as Bell’s palsy, Herpes Zoser Oticus (Ramsay Hunt Syndrome) or surgical removal of a tumour such as an acoustic neuroma can cause this problem. If you can’t smile properly, it can affect your ability to show others the expression of happiness. A crooked smile also affects first impressions during social interactions and makes keeping food in the mouth difficult during eating and drinking.
Traditionally, following damage to the facial nerve, patients have been told to wait until facial movement returns before specific facial physiotherapy exercises to retrain the smile can begin. This study adopts a different approach by using visual imagery techniques during the period when there is no visible facial movement. Other areas of rehabilitation such as after a stroke, have found this method to be beneficial.
To examine whether early intervention using facial imagery can improve smiling after facial nerve paralysis, we are seeking people with a complete facial nerve paralysis who are within the first 3 weeks after onset. Participants will be given functional MRI and clinical testing to examine the effects of the treatment. They will also receive the usual physiotherapy care after a facial nerve injury.
More detailed information can be found on the Participant Information Sheet, or by contacting Dr Susan Coulson.