UCSB Science Line
Sponge Spicules Nerve Cells Galaxy Abalone Shell Nickel Succinate X-ray Lens Lupine
UCSB Science Line
How it Works
Ask a Question
Search Topics
Our Scientists
Science Links
Contact Information
Is yawning contageous?
Question Date: 2006-01-20
Answer 1:

No one really knows why yawning is contagious or why we yawn at all. Some scientists are wondering if yawning is from our deep past -- part of our evolutionary history. In early humans, yawn contagiousness might have helped people communicate their alertness levels to each other, and thus coordinate their sleep schedules. Dr. Provine suggests that perhaps yawning is like stretching. Yawning and stretching increase blood pressure and heart rate and also flex muscles and joints. Apparently, the urge to copy an observed yawn is clearly an automatic response triggered by our brains, but it is also an unconscious behavior.

Researchers have found that wherever yawning might affect the brain, it bypasses the part of the brain that consciously analyzes and mimickes other peoples actions,called the mirror-neuron system (MNS), a part of the brain also linked to learning and understanding. The MNS contains a special type of neurons that become active when doing something consciously.The researchers found that yawning actually deactivates a different part of the brain, called the left periamygdalar region. This means that there is neurophysiological evidence showing that yawning is contagious. One thing seems clear from the study is that contagious yawning does not rely on brain mechanisms of action understanding and it is automatically released and generally unconscious action.

Click Here to return to the search form.

University of California, Santa Barbara Materials Research Laboratory National Science Foundation
This program is co-sponsored by the National Science Foundation and UCSB School-University Partnerships
Copyright © 2020 The Regents of the University of California,
All Rights Reserved.
UCSB Terms of Use