Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Yawning to cool the brain

07.05.2014

Yawning frequencies of people vary with temperature of the season

Common belief is that yawning helps to increase the oxygen supply. However, previous research has failed to show an association between yawning and blood oxygen levels. New research by a team of researchers led by Psychologist Andrew Gallup of SUNY College at Oneonta, USA now reveals that yawning cools the brain.

Sleep cycles, cortical arousal and stress are all associated with fluctuations in brain temperature, Yawning subsequently functions to keep the brain temperature balanced and in optimal homeostasis. According to this theory, yawning should also be easily manipulated by ambient temperature variation, since exchange with cool ambient air temperature may facilitate lowering brain temperature. Specifically, the researchers hypothesized that yawning should only occur within an optimal range of temperatures, i.e., a thermal window.

To test this, Jorg Massen and Kim Dusch of the University of Vienna measured contagious yawning frequencies of pedestrians outdoors in Vienna, Austria, during both the winter and summer months, and then compared these results to an identical study conducted earlier in arid climate of Arizona, USA. Pedestrians were asked to view a series of images of people yawning, and then they self-reported on their own yawning behavior.

Results showed that in Vienna people yawned more in summer than in winter, whereas in Arizona people yawned more in winter than in summer. It turned out that it was not the seasons themselves, nor the amount of daylight hours experienced, but that contagious yawning was constrained to an optimal thermal zone or range of ambient temperatures around 20o C.

In contrast, contagious yawning diminished when temperatures were relatively high at around 37o C in the summer of Arizona or low and around freezing in the winter of Vienna. Lead author Jorg Massen explains that where yawning functions to cool the brain, yawning is not functional when ambient temperatures are as hot as the body, and may not be necessary or may even have harmful consequences when it is freezing outside.

While most research on contagious yawning emphasizes the influence of interpersonal and emotional-cognitive variables on its expression, this report adds to accumulating research suggesting that the underlying mechanism for yawning, both spontaneous and contagious forms, is involved in regulating brain temperature. In turn, the cooling of the brain functions to improve arousal and mental efficiency. The authors of this study suggest that the spreading of this behavior via contagious yawning could therefore function to enhance overall group vigilance.

###

Publication in "Physiology & Behavior"
Massen, J.J.M., Dusch, K., Eldakar, O.T. & Gallup, A.C. (2014) A thermal window for yawning in humans: Yawning as a Brain Cooling Mechanism.
Physiology & Behavior.
Published online on April 12th.
doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2014.03.032.

Scientific contact

Jorg J.M. Massen, PhD
Department of Cognitive Biology
University of Vienna
1090 Vienna, Althanstraße 14
T +43-699-1131 0182
jorg.massen@univie.ac.at

Further inquiries

Mag. Alexandra Frey
Press office, University of Vienna
Research and Teaching
1010 Vienna, Universitätsring 1
T +43-1-4277-175 33
M +43-664-602 77-175 33
alexandra.frey@univie.ac.at

The University of Vienna, founded in 1365, is one of the oldest and largest universities in Europe. About 9,500 employees, 6,700 of who are academic employees, work at 15 faculties and four centres. This makes the University of Vienna Austria's largest research and education institution. About 92,000 national and international students are currently enrolled at the University of Vienna. With more than 180 degree programmes, the University offers the most diverse range of studies in Austria. The University of Vienna is also a major provider of continuing education. In 2015, the Alma Mater Rudolphina Vindobonensis celebrates its 650th Anniversary. http://www.univie.ac.at

Jorg J.M. Massen, Ph.D. | Eurek Alert!

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Protein scaffold
27.05.2015 | Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST) Graduate University

nachricht Seeing the action
27.05.2015 | University of California - Santa Barbara

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Solid-state photonics goes extreme ultraviolet

Using ultrashort laser pulses, scientists in Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics have demonstrated the emission of extreme ultraviolet radiation from thin dielectric films and have investigated the underlying mechanisms.

In 1961, only shortly after the invention of the first laser, scientists exposed silicon dioxide crystals (also known as quartz) to an intense ruby laser to...

Im Focus: Advance in regenerative medicine

The only professorship in Germany to date, one master's programme, one laboratory with worldwide unique equipment and the corresponding research results: The University of Würzburg is leading in the field of biofabrication.

Paul Dalton is presently the only professor of biofabrication in Germany. About a year ago, the Australian researcher relocated to the Würzburg department for...

Im Focus: Basel Physicists Develop Efficient Method of Signal Transmission from Nanocomponents

Physicists have developed an innovative method that could enable the efficient use of nanocomponents in electronic circuits. To achieve this, they have developed a layout in which a nanocomponent is connected to two electrical conductors, which uncouple the electrical signal in a highly efficient manner. The scientists at the Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel have published their results in the scientific journal “Nature Communications” together with their colleagues from ETH Zurich.

Electronic components are becoming smaller and smaller. Components measuring just a few nanometers – the size of around ten atoms – are already being produced...

Im Focus: IoT-based Advanced Automobile Parking Navigation System

Development and implementation of an advanced automobile parking navigation platform for parking services

To fulfill the requirements of the industry, PolyU researchers developed the Advanced Automobile Parking Navigation Platform, which includes smart devices,...

Im Focus: First electrical car ferry in the world in operation in Norway now

  • Siemens delivers electric propulsion system and charging stations with lithium-ion batteries charged from hydro power
  • Ferry only uses 150 kilowatt hours (kWh) per route and reduces cost of fuel by 60 percent
  • Milestone on the road to operating emission-free ferries

The world's first electrical car and passenger ferry powered by batteries has entered service in Norway. The ferry only uses 150 kWh per route, which...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

International symposium: trends in spatial analysis and modelling for a more sustainable land use

20.05.2015 | Event News

15th conference of the International Association of Colloid and Interface Scientists

18.05.2015 | Event News

EHFG 2015: Securing health in Europe. Balancing priorities, sharing responsibilities

12.05.2015 | Event News

 
Latest News

More densely populated urban areas call for more urban quality

28.05.2015 | Architecture and Construction

The Arctic: Interglacial period with a break

28.05.2015 | Earth Sciences

New transregional special research field at the universities of Stuttgart and Constance

28.05.2015 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>