It is hard for people to refrain from reciprocating a yawn when they see someone do it. It turns out that science backs up this odd phenomenon which is actually a primitive reflex. However, contagious yawns are a crucial matter to study further. This behavior can hide the secret to treating disorders such as the Tourette syndrome.
What Contagious Yawns and Neural Conditions Have in Common is Echophenomena
Scientists from the University of Nottingham, England stated that humans remained with an ancient trait known as echophenomena. This characteristic alone makes people yawn involuntarily when they watch another person do it.
Echophenomena is actually a social reflex that helps people better integrate into a community. This instinct tells them to imitate words, actions or gestures that they see or hear from members of a group. This way, the other people will find them to their liking and will eventually include them in their community.
On the other hand, echophenomena appears in neurodevelopment conditions as well. Autism, epilepsy, and Tourettes have this trait in common. When scientists decipher the exact mechanism behind this ancient reflex, they might also be able to create an effective treatment for these conditions.
Scientists Found a Lever that Switch on the Excitability that Made Them Yawn
The team conducted experiments with a group of 36 people regarding contagious yawns. Participants watched videos of persons yawing. Scientists recorded the number of times people reciprocated and fought against this instinct. The findings indicated that it was hard for a person to suppress a yawn. The fighting becomes even harder when someone told participants not to yawn.
The experiment has also applied electrical stimulation. Under the influence of this external force, participants encountered a higher necessity to reciprocate yawning. Nottingham scientist Georgina Jackson stated that they were pleased to find this lever that turned on echophenomena. To cure Tourettes, they just have to find a way to turn it off.
“In Tourettes, if we could reduce the excitability we might reduce the ticks.”
Therefore, scientists need to find the source of the excitability that follows a neural condition. It is easier to find it through healthy people that don’t have this trait activated all the time. Therefore, researchers need more studies to find out how contagious yawns really work.
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