The frontalis or frontal muscle belongs to the occipitofrontalis muscle. Its function consists essentially of raising the eyebrows and frowning; he thus contributes to facial expressions and thus to non-verbal communication. A stroke caused by insufficient supply of blood to the brain may result in the temporary or permanent paralysis of the frontalis muscle.

What is the frontalis muscle?

Under the skin of the forehead lies the frontalis muscle. It is part of the occipitofrontalis muscle, which also includes the occipitalis muscle, which lies at the back of the head. The frontalis muscle and the occipital muscle are connected longitudinally over the skull.

The German name of the frontalis muscle is forehead muscle or - according to one of its functions - eyebrow lifter. The occipital muscle causes the opposite effect: it smoothes the forehead. Doctors refer to the cooperating muscles as the bellies of the occipitofrontalis muscle.

Anatomy & Construction

The frontalis muscle arises from the head fascia on the forehead and attaches to the gonea aponeurotica, which connects it with the occipital muscle. Seen in cross-section, the frontalis muscle lies between two layers of tissue: the skin and the fascia, a soft part of the connective tissue.

Muscles that lie between these two layers are also called skin muscles. This group of striated (skeletal) muscles plays a major role in humans only for facial expressions; In some cases, animals use sudden twitching of the skin muscles to scare off insects. Skin muscles are not only on the face, but also in other regions of the body.

Function & Tasks

Tension (contraction) and relaxation (relaxation) of the frontalis musculature contribute to facial expressions, which as non-verbal communication have a high priority for social processes. Among other things, the frontalis muscle is involved in the expression of two basic emotions: anger and surprise. Together with joy, fear, sadness, contempt and disgust, they form the seven basic emotions of Ekman, which can spontaneously show and recognize all people across cultures.

Social scientists and psychologists therefore also call them universal emotions or basic feelings. In displaying anger, the frontalis muscle causes a frown that contracts the eyebrows and forms wrinkles on the forehead. The brows tend to be downwards more inside than outside. On the other hand, if a face expresses surprise, the eyebrows lift and usually have a greater curvature than in the relaxed state. For objective analysis of emotional facial expressions, the Facial Action Coding System (FACS) captures patterns of muscle relaxation and relaxation and maps them to the underlying emotions.

The FACS already detects mild unintentional facial muscle activity. In addition, the frontalis muscle and the superordinate unit of the occipitofrontalis muscle indirectly support the protection of the eye and its line of sight. The human eye is a complex lens system that is very sensitive to irritation. Excessive light and inadequate stimuli (such as swirling sand) can damage the organ of vision equally. The eye socket shields the eyeball somewhat, but is not sufficient as the only protection mechanism.

When very strong light falls on the retina, people reflexively respond with a series of defensive actions: they pinch their eyes together, turn away whenever possible, use their hands to shield their faces if necessary, and frown. The contraction of the frontalis muscle contracts the eyebrows and causes a slight curvature over the eye area. The ambient light makes it harder to invade the eye and penetrate to the retina.


Paralysis of the frontalis muscle may occur as a result of stroke (Apoplexia cerebri or Apoplex for short). The neurological disease, also known as stroke, is due to poor blood supply to the brain. The possible causes of this deficiency are manifold: Blood coagulation disorders, thromboses, damage to the vessel wall (for example, cracks) with subsequent blood loss, spasms and bleeding in the brain are among the most common.

The frontalis muscle and other muscles may be permanently or temporarily damaged and may be partially or completely paralyzed. In addition, a mere weakness of the facial muscles is possible; However, it is also not given in every stroke. Which symptoms manifest themselves depends on which part of the brain is undersupplied. Typical signs include dizziness, nausea, vomiting, blurred vision, balance problems, headache, numbness and gait disturbances. Some patients have a poor temporal and / or spatial orientation or can not provide information about themselves.

Functional linguistic limitations that affect understanding, word-finding or other areas of language may also occur. In addition, people often appear confused in an apoplex. Signs of stroke necessarily require immediate clarification by trained healthcare professionals. For accurate diagnosis, physicians typically rely on computed tomography (CT) or other imaging techniques. The scan makes the structure of the brain visible, thus allowing accurate localization of possible bleeding or anomalies.

The cause of the condition also depends on the individual case, which in most cases initially takes place predominantly medically. In the long term, patients who have suffered a stroke will also benefit from rehabilitation measures that can potentially improve individual symptoms.

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