The yawnier your yawn, the brawnier your brain, says science

A new study examining the yawning habits of 19 species supports the theory that yawning is good for the brain

The yawnier your yawn, the brawnier your brain, says science


In the week when the Nobel Prizes are being awarded to some of the greatest minds on the planet, some good news for people who yawn a lot – a new study claims that it may mean you have a bigger and better brain.

While nobody is quite certain why exactly mammals yawn, one theory holds that because of the massive amounts of energy required by the brain, they can get very warm. A quick inhalation of cool air helps to cool down the blood, with many scientists positing that this is what happens when we yawn.

Writing in Biology Letters, psychologist Andrew Gallup of the State University of New York just published research on the phenomenon. According to the data, which recorded the duration of yawns in 109 individual participants spread across 19 different species based on YouTube videos, the time spent yawning goes hand in hand with a species’ brain weight and the number of cortical neurones it has.

“Longer and/or [more] powerful yawns should provide greater physiological effects,” Gallup writes.

According to the numbers, the duration of a yawn time stretched from the 0.8 seconds typical of mice to the average persons 6.5 seconds. In the animal kingdom, camels were observed to yawn for 4.8 seconds, with man’s best friend the dog needing only 2.4 seconds – almost half a second more than cats.

The research also suggested that the link between brain weight and neuronee numbers wasn’t merely a matter of larger jaws resulting in longer yawns. In spite of having proportionally larger jaw bones than human beings, gorillas, camels, lions, horses, walruses and elephants all display shorter yawning times.

The theory that yawning works an organic temperature regulator is a contentious hypothesis in the scientific community, however, with many physiologists arguing that the cooling effects of yawning are negligible. Responding to these criticisms, Gallup said: “Whether yawning functions specifically to cool the brain can still be debated, but there is no debate on whether yawning has thermoregulatory consequences.”

So that’s them told.

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