This is why yawning is contagious

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Elia Tabuenca García
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Some researchers have attempted to explain why yawning is contagious.

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Yawn synonymous with contagion. If someone is in the presence of another who starts yawning, he can rest assured that he will have the same fate. The yawn, as much as it may be a sign of intelligence, it is the most contagious there may be. But why on earth?

Attempting to explain it were British researchers from the University of Nottingham, who discovered that yawning would originate in the motor cortex of the brain which is in charge of movement control.

Well, according to the results of the study coordinated by Stephen Jackson and published in the journal "Current Biology", the yawn could be related to the category of so-called "ecofenomeni”, That is, of those events that it is impossible for us not to make happen. Examples are echolalia, the automatic imitation of a word, or ecopraxia, which instead consists in the imitation of an action, all automatic impulses which, just like in the case of contagious yawning, are characterized by an authentic inability to repress the tendency to imitate. It is true that ecophenomena can be studied - in humans but also in different animals, such as dogs and chimpanzees - also as a series of clinical conditions linked to diseases such as seizures, dementia, autism or Tourette's syndrome and due precisely to greater sensitivity. of the motor cortex.

A systematic review - The British scholars analyzed the relationship between excitability and motor sensitivity and the occurrence of ecophenomena in 36 volunteers by subjecting the participants to transcranial magnetic stimulation (Tms), which quantifies the sensitivity of the motor cortex and consequently, in this case, provides for the contagious propensity to yawn. Later, the volunteers saw videos of people yawning and were asked to try to resist the urge to do the same. But this was not the case: trying not to yawn had the opposite effect and the propensity to yawn by imitation would depend on the sensitivity of the cortex, which differs from person to person.

But why so much "fury" against a "contagion" which, after all, has no complications? Because, according to the researchers, understand how the alterations in the sensitivity of the cortex help to develop neurological dysfunctions could pave the way for new treatments.

“We are studying - explains Professor Jackson - personalized and non-pharmacological treatments which, based on TMS, can act on the imbalances of neurological networks”. A practical example is that of Tourette's syndrome, a neurological disorder characterized by the presence of motor and phonatory tics, the intensity of which can vary depending on the severity of the problem, from mild to disabling. "In Tourette's syndrome, if we could reduce the sensitivity of the cortex, then maybe we could also reduce the tics of the disease and that's what we're working on."

You can also read about contagious events:

  • The more you yawn, the smarter you are. the study that proves it
  • Stress as contagious as a yawn
  • The chills as contagious as yawns

Understanding how the alterations of what concerns the cortex of the brain lead to neurological disorders, could in short also help we can also cancel those same alterations. And kindle new hopes for much more serious pathologies.

Germana Carillo

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