Mice Can Show Emotions through Facial Expressions, Study Says

Category: Science/Environment


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. exhibit / ɪgˈzɪb ɪt / (v) – to show a behavior, quality, etc.

    He exhibited fear and nervousness during the competition.

  2. subtle / ˈsʌt l / (adj) – difficult to notice

    Only experienced chefs would notice the subtle changes in the dish’s flavor.

  3. underlying / ˈʌn dərˌlaɪ ɪŋ / (adj) – describing something that forms the basis or cause of another thing

    The doctor was able to treat the patient’s symptoms but not the underlying disease.

  4. subject (someone/something) to (something) / səbˈdʒɛkt tʊ / (phrasal) – to cause someone or something to experience another thing

    The study subjected the participants to several tests.

  5. dubious / ˈdu bi əs / (adj) – doubtful

    Because of the employee’s poor performance in past projects, the management is dubious about his capability to handle a big project.


Read the text below.

A new study has found that mice show different facial expressions based on their emotions.

In their research, German neurobiologists discovered that mice exhibit different facial expressions, which are so subtle that they cannot be noticed by the human eye. According to the scientists, the expressions are not just reactions to the environment but reflections of underlying emotions, such as pleasure, pain, and fear. Mice that tasted a sweet solution showed a joyous expression, while mice that tasted a salty solution showed disgust.

To categorize facial expressions by their corresponding emotions, the scientists subjected the mice to various stimuli while observing the animals’ facial responses. Images of the mice’s facial expressions were then inputted into an AI system. When the system was tested to see whether or not it could determine the mice’s emotions, it was able to guess the emotions accurately 90% of the time.

The scientists also noted that aside from stimuli outside the body, emotions can also result from activities in the brain. To test this, the scientists activated parts of the mice’s brains associated with emotions in humans. They found that when these brain regions were triggered, the animals exhibited different facial expressions.

According to the researchers, the study can lead to a better understanding of how people suffering from mood disorders feel and process their emotions.

However, Susanne Schweizer, a neuroscientist not involved in the study, is dubious whether the facial expressions of mice really indicated emotions. She thinks that unlike long-lived human experiences, such as loss of a loved one, the conditions the animals experienced in the study were brief.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

• Do you think observing the mice while they are being subjected to different situations is enough to measure their emotions? Why or why not?
• Do you believe that human emotions can be better understood by studying animals like mice? Why or why not?

Discussion B

• Do you think facial expressions are important in communication? Why or why not?
• Apart from what was mentioned in the article, what do you think is the value of studying facial expressions (e.g. improved communication, lie detection)? Explain.