Karen Schmidt, PhD






Bridgeside Point Building

100 Technology Drive, Suite 500

Pittsburgh, PA 15219


Assistant Professor

Department of Oral Biology

School of Dental Medicine


Research Assistant Professor

Psychology, College of Arts and Sciences

Research Interests


Oral-facial cleft families:  facial movement phenotypes:  Facial movement and mid facial appearance of persons with a cleft, their unaffected relatives, and control participants are under investigation, using videotaped interview data collected in coordination with the Center for Craniofacial and Dental Genetics.  This study is part of a larger effort to assess multiple phenotypes and identify subclinical physical anomalies in the unaffected relatives of cleft individuals in order to better define the phenotype segregating at a genetic level.


Structural and functional facial phenotypes in Moebius Syndrome: The goal of this project is to assess the extent of structural facial differences and movement differences in individuals with Moebius Syndrome and their families and to identify areas of residual movement in people with Moebius.  This work is part of a collaborative effort to relate physical facial characteristics of Moebius Syndrome with social interactive adaptations of persons living with this syndrome.


Assessment of facial nerve and muscles of facial expression in craniofacial microsomia:  Classification systems used to evaluate severity of craniofacial microsomia rely on expert ratings of features characteristic of CFM (e.g. anomalies of the ears, mandible, facial nerves, soft tissues and orbits.) Functional assessment of facial nerve and muscles of facial expression, however, is challenging as anomalies are not easily visualized or quantified in direct observation or assessment of still photographs. We are piloting the use of electromyography (EMG) to quantify facial nerve activity, and detailed coding approaches to measure facial movement to develop new methods to evaluate nerve and muscle involvement in CFM .


Psychosocial health and facial nerve dysfunction: This study investigates psychosocial adjustment in persons with adult onset facial movement disorders, such as Bell’s palsy.  Of particular interest is facial movement impairment, as measured clinically, through coding, and by automated analysis of deliberate facial expression, and its relation to spontaneous facial expression performance, social interaction, and symptoms of depression and anxiety.


Facial movement and vocal intensity in schizophrenia: It is hypothesized that individuals with schizophrenia have less coordinated nonverbal signaling than healthy controls. This project studies spontaneous eyebrow movement and vocal intensity (dB) during conversational speech to explore differences in coordination of these nonverbal signals for individuals with schizophrenia and their first degree relatives. This research coordinates with ongoing study of typical spontaneous facial movements, including puckering, eyebrow raising and smiling in healthy children, teens, and adults.

Recent Publications


Merkel, K.M., Schmidt, K.L., Levenstein, R.M., VanSwearingen, J.M., Bentley, B.C. (2007). Positive affect predicts improved lip movement in facial movement disorder.  Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery, 137(1), 100-104.

Rogers, C.R., Schmidt, K.L., VanSwearingen, J.M., Cohn, J.F., Wachtman, G.S., Manders, E.K., Deleyiannis, F. W.-B. (2007). Automated facial image analysis: Detecting improvement in abnormal facial muscle activity following treatment with Botulinum Toxin A. Annals of Plastic Surgery, 58, 1-9.

Denlinger, R.L., VanSwearingen, J.M., Cohn, J.F, Schmidt, K.L. (2008) Puckering and blowing facial expressions for patients with facial movement disorders.  Physical Therapy Journal, 88, 909-915.

Santucci, A.K., Lingler, J.H., Schmidt, K.L., Nolan, B.A., Thatcher, D.L., Polk, D.E. (2008). Peer-mentored research development meeting: A model for successful peer mentoring among junior level researchers. Academic Psychiatry, 32, 493-497.

Schmidt, K.L., Bhattacharya, S, Denlinger, R.L. (2009) Comparison of deliberate and spontaneous facial movement in smiles and eyebrow raises.  Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 33, 35-45.

Schmidt, K.L., Lingler, J.H., Schulz, R. (2009) Verbal Communication among Alzheimer’s Disease Patients, their Caregivers, and Primary Care Physicians during Primary Care Office Visits. Patient Education and Counseling, 77, 197-201.