Finding out why we need to imitate yawning might provide a treatment for Tourette syndrome
(Mirror Daily, United States) – Humans exhibit many peculiar behaviors, and not many of them can be easily explains. Some of these behaviors is the highly contagious yawning, which kept puzzling scientists for quite a long time. Now, a team of researchers from the University of Nottingham suggests this behavior is caused by a reflex deeply rooted in our brain, whose understanding might help in the treatment of conditions like Tourette syndrome.
The reflex behind reciprocating yawning is deeply rooted in the brain
It is well-known that other people’s yawning might make you yawn as well. This reflex is called echophenomena. In a study published in the journal Current Biology, researchers explained what this peculiar human trait is. Apart from making people imitate the actions and behavior of others, it might also contribute to the development of neurological conditions, such as autism, Tourette syndrome, or epilepsy.
For the study, researchers took 36 participants and had them watch videos of yawning people. Then, they counted how many yawns the participants produced, and how many they suppressed. They found out that these people found it quite hard to suppress their yawns, and it was even more difficult to do it if someone else told them to.
Finding an explanation to this phenomenon might offer an alternative treatment for Tourette’s
Then, they tried a different experiment. They administered electrical stimulation to these people’s brains, and triggered their need to yawn. Therefore, increasing the excitability of the brain increased the occurrence of reciprocated yawning. Then, researchers thought that, if they managed to reduce the excitability suffered by the brain in Tourette’s, for instance, they might also be able to reduce the number of ticks.
The next step would be to find out how excitability is related to the instantiation of these phenomena. However, scientists still need more research to decode the mystery of yawning. They still couldn’t tell why we do it when we are tired, and the existing evidence is quite weak to establish an explanation.
Image Source: Pixabay