Frontiers in Neuroscience
Brain cooling, Contagious yawning, Sleep, Thermoregulation, Yawning
Over the past 5 years numerous reports have confirmed and replicated the specific brain cooling and thermal window predictions derived from the thermoregulatory theory of yawning, and no study has found evidence contrary to these findings. Here we review the comparative research supporting this model of yawning among homeotherms, while highlighting a recent report showing how the expression of contagious yawning in humans is altered by seasonal climate variation. The fact that yawning is constrained to a thermal window of ambient temperature provides unique and compelling support in favor of this theory. Heretofore, no existing alternative hypothesis of yawning can explain these results, which have important implications for understanding the potential functional role of this behavior, both physiologically and socially, in humans and other animals. In discussion we stress the broader applications of this work in clinical settings, and counter the various criticisms of this theory.
Gallup, Andrew C. and Omar Tonsi Eldakar. 2013. "The Thermoregulatory Theory of Yawning: What We Know from Over Five Years of Research." Frontiers in Neuroscience 6, (188): 1-13. doi:10.3389/fnins.2012.00188.