Why do I Yawn When You Yawn?

04 September, 2017, 06:40 | Author: Darrell Lopez
  • Former US President Barack Obama yawns as he attends the East Asian Summit Plenary Session in 2012

The work with electrical stimulation suggests that the brain's primary motor cortex plays a role in contagious yawning, the researchers said.

Stephen Jackson, professor of cognitive neuroscience at Nottingham University is the study's team leader.

We all do it: We all tend to start yawning when we see, or even hear, someone else yawning.

Next time you try to stifle a yawn, it might be worth discarding polite etiquette by letting your mouth gape for as long as you need because it could help to reveal how smart you are. But a new study takes the yawn research one step further, suggesting that trying to stifle those involuntary stretches only makes the urge to yawn even stronger. In other words, it's an automatic imitation of another person, according to the study, published online today (Aug. 31) in the journal Current Biology.

The findings indicate that a someone's ability to resist yawning when a nearby person yawns is restricted and when a person is instructed to resist yawning, an increasing urge to yawn has been observed.

The researchers showed the participants video clips of people yawning.

Contagious yawns aren't limited to humans. They then noticed that those who were most susceptible to the yawn contagious, were precisely those in which the motor cortex was the most " excitable ".

But anyone trying to stifle their yawns at a particularly boring work meeting or date is fighting a losing battle, scientists have found.

"These findings may be particularly important in understanding the association between motor excitability and the occurrence of echophenomena in a wide range of clinical conditions linked to increased cortical excitability and decreased physiological inhibition such as epilepsy, dementia, autism, and Tourette syndrome", Professor Stephen Jackson was quoted while talking about the same.

The full paper "A neural basis for contagious yawning" is can be read on the University of Nottingham's website.

TMS was used to quantify motor cortical excitability and physiological inhibition for each participant and predict the propensity for contagious yawning across all the volunteers.

In a separate experiment, the researchers tested this idea and found that mild electrical brain stimulation increased excitability to the motor cortex. "In Tourette's, if we could reduce the excitability we might reduce the ticks and that's what we are working on", Prof Jackson said. "We are looking for potential non-drug, personalised treatments, using TMS that might be affective in modulating inbalances in the brain networks".

"If we can understand how alterations in cortical excitability give rise to neural disorders we can potentially reverse them".



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