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Today I learned that my belief that the purpose of yawning is to bring oxygen into the brain has never been proven. Scientists still don't know why we yawn.


Everyone yawns, but no one knows why. We start when we are in the womb, and we do it through old age. Most vertebrate species, even birds and fishes, yawn too, or at least do something that looks very much like it. But its physiological mechanisms, its purpose and what survival value it might have remain a mystery.

There is no shortage of theories - a recent article in the journal Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews outlines many - but a dearth of experimental proof that any of them is correct...

So what purpose does yawning serve?

Children under 5 are not subject to contagious yawning, but adult humans, chimpanzees, monkeys and dogs - animals with advanced social skills - are. Apparently an understanding of the mental states of others is required before yawning becomes catching.

That idea is supported by M.R.I. observation in humans: watching others yawn activates brain regions related to imitation, empathy and social behavior.

Birds Do It ... We Do It ... and No One Knows Why

What did you learn today?


Original posting by Braincrave Second Life staff on Dec 21, 2010 at http://www.braincrave.com/viewblog.php?id=411

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