Why Is Yawning so Contagious?

Why Is Yawning so Contagious?

TEHRAN (Tasnim) - Experts published a research that suggests the human propensity for contagious yawning is triggered automatically by primitive reflexes in the primary motor cortex - an area of the brain responsible for motor function.

Feeling tired? Even if we aren't tired, why do we yawn if someone else does? Experts at the University of Nottingham have an explanation.

Their study, “A neural basis for contagious yawning”, has been published in the academic journal Current Biology. It is another stage in their research into the underlying biology of neuropsychiatric disorders and their search for new methods of treatment.

Their latest findings show that our ability to resist yawning when someone else near us yawns is limited. And our urge to yawn is increased if we are instructed to resist yawning. But, no matter how hard we try to stifle a yawn, it might change how we yawn but it won't alter our propensity to yawn. Importantly, they have discovered that the urge to yawn -our propensity for contagious yawning- is individual to each one of us.

Stephen Jackson, Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience, in the School of Psychology, led the multidisciplinary study.

Contagious yawning is triggered involuntarily when we observe another person yawn -it is a common form of echophenomena- the automatic imitation of another's words (echolalia) or actions (echopraxia). And it's not just humans who have a propensity for contagious yawning -chimpanzees and dogs do it too.

Georgina Jackson, Professor of Cognitive Neuropsychology in the Institute of Mental Health, said, "This research has shown that the 'urge' is increased by trying to stop yourself. Using electrical stimulation we were able to increase excitability and in doing so increase the propensity for contagious yawning. In Tourettes if we could reduce the excitability we might reduce the ticks and that's what we are working on."

Most Visited in Space/Science
Top Space/Science stories
Top Stories