Ever wonder why you yawn? It’s not necessarily because you’re bored or tired. Yawning actually serves as a cooling mechanism for your brain, according to a collaborative study co-authored by Omar Tonsi Eldakar, Ph.D., assistant professor at NSU’s Farquhar College of Arts and Sciences.
The study, originally published in the journal Physiology & Behavior, has been reported across the globe by outlets including TIME magazine, Huffington Post, CNN, Science World Report, and WebMD. Comedian Stephen Colbert, host of Comedy Central’s Colbert Report and heir to the Late Show head seat, even tweeted about the study.
About the Study
Title: “A Thermal Window for Yawning in Humans: Yawning as a Brain Cooling Mechanism”
Authors: Jorg J.M. Massen and Kim Dusch (University of Vienna), Omar Tonsi Eldakar (NSU’s Farquhar College of Arts and Sciences), and Andrew C. Gallup (SUNY College at Oneonta)
From the Abstract: “The thermoregulatory theory of yawning posits that yawns function to cool the brain in part due to counter-current heat exchange with the deep inhalation of ambient air. Consequently, yawning should be constrained to an optimal thermal zone or range of temperature, i.e., a thermal window, in which we should expect a lower frequency at extreme temperatures. Previous research shows that yawn frequency diminishes as ambient temperatures rise and approach body temperature, but a lower bound to the thermal window has not been demonstrated. To test this, a total of 120 pedestrians were sampled for susceptibly to self-reported yawn contagion during distinct temperature ranges and seasons. … As predicted, the proportion of pedestrians reporting yawning was significantly lower during winter than in summer (18.3% vs. 41.7%), with temperature being the only significant predictor of these differences across seasons. The underlying mechanism for yawning in humans, both spontaneous and contagious, appears to be involved in brain thermoregulation.”
—View the complete article online, via Physiology & Behavior.