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Postby scoobyjude » Tue Jun 26, 2007 6:31 pm

Yawning Saves Your Brain From Overheating
Posted by huehueteotl on June 25th, 2007

The next time you “catch a yawn” from someone across the room, you’re not copying their sleepiness, you’re participating in an ancient, hardwired ritual that might have evolved to help groups stay alert as a means of detecting danger. That’s the conclusion of University at Albany researchers Andrew C. Gallup and Gordon G. Gallup, Jr. in a study outlined in the May 2007 issue in Evolutionary Psychology.

The psychologists, who studied yawning in college students, concluded that people do not yawn because they need oxygen, since experiments show that raising or lowering oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood fails to produce the reaction. Rather, yawning acts as a brain-cooling mechanism. The brain burns up to a third of the calories we consume, and as a consequence generates heat.

According to Gallup and Gallup, our brains, not unlike computers, operate more efficiently when cool, and yawning enhances the brain’s functioning by increasing blood flow and drawing in cooler air.

To research the theory that yawning evolved to cool the brain, the UAlbany psychologists had students watch videotapes of people yawning and counted the number of contagious yawns. In one experiment they found that 50 percent of the people who were instructed to breathe normally or through their mouths yawned while watching other people yawn, while those told to breathe through their nose did not yawn at all.

In another experiment they found that subjects who held a cold pack to their forehead acted similarly to those who were instructed to breathe through their nose — they, too, did not yawn, while those who held a warm pack or a room temperature pack to their forehead yawned normally.

Evidence shows that blood vessels in the nasal cavity and face send cool blood to the brain, and by breathing through the nose or by cooling the forehead, the brain is cooled, eliminating the need to yawn. Recent evidence has linked multiple sclerosis, a demyelinating disease, to thermoregulatory dysfunction. Excessive yawning is a common symptom of multiple sclerosis, and some MS patients report brief symptom relief after they yawn.

The UAlbany researchers also suggest, again contrary to popular opinion, that yawning does not promote sleep but helps mitigate the need to sleep. Since yawning occurs when brain temperature rises, sending cool blood to the brain serves to maintain optimal levels of mental efficiency. Therefore, the psychologists say, when mental processing slows and someone yawns, the tendency for other people to yawn contagiously might have evolved to promote group vigilance as a means of detecting danger.

So the next time you are telling a story and a listener yawns there is no need to be offended — yawning, a physiological mechanism designed to maintain attention, turns out to be a compliment.
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Postby TwistedHelix » Thu Jun 28, 2007 7:21 am

Hello Scooby,
I love articles like this! Not only does it seem to answer a general question, but also gives an entirely new, (to me), slant on MS. I've never just walked over to someone and taken their brain temperature, (it's just not polite), but it is a fact that everyone I've ever known with MS has had trouble regulating their general body temperature: they either feel excessively cold or hot regardless of the ambient temperature, and of course this theory provides a direct link to the fact that the majority of people with MS can't tolerate overheating.
I read somewhere that it's all to do with the fact that chemical reactions are generally faster in warmer temperatures. You'd think that this would simply mean faster transmission at the synapses, but I suppose if something like Calcium transportation couldn't keep up, a toxic cascade could soon be triggered.
I know you can get cool vests, which have chilled liquid pumped through a network of pipes, but maybe head gear would be a better idea?
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Postby LisaBee » Thu Jun 28, 2007 4:36 pm

Hi Twisted,

I actually did put cold packs on my head and neck while I was having the event that led to my diagnosis. I had a lot of vertigo and weird shifting vision. While I was at the doctors' and they were messing around with me, trying to find out what was going on, someone gave me a cold pack for my neck pain. As I was lying on the table with that cold pack behind my head, I looked up and noticed the ceiling tiles were no longer spinning around as much. Periodically after that I would lay with a cold pack behind my head over the next couple of weeks and the world would hold still for me. I would keep the pack on until I started feeling cold, would pull it off, warm up, and put it on again. It was the only thing that remotely helped, as no medication would even touch my symptoms.

After I finally got to a neuro and got an MRI and diagnosis about two months later I was much better, and the neuro commented that I seemed to have healed up well on my own, without the help of any steriods. The enhancing lesions on the MRI that caused my symptoms (resolving at the time I finally got an MRI) were at the back of my head, where I kept the ice pack while symptomatic. I wonder, in retrospect, if chilling the spot limited the inflammation and the damage.

Based on my own experience, I can't say whether chilling the affected spot durinng an acute event had anything to do with my subsequent recovery or not. I don't know if it has ever been studied. It would nice if sticking a cold pack in the vicinity of affected brain or spine during a relapse would be found to reduce the degree of injury - certainly easier than steroids! There may be contraindications, I don't know. It is not something people could do for long periods, but at least seemed to help me through an acute event. I certainly don't know enough about "brain chilling" to recommend anyone else do it, but it seemed to help me.

Interesting about the yawns, scooby! Who knows, Twisted's cold helmet idea might lead to something!
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Postby scoobyjude » Thu Jun 28, 2007 7:43 pm

Dom and Lisabee, I don't have too much trouble with over-heating but I yawn an awful lot. I also used cold packs for my neck pain before I was dxed and it seemed to help. Maybe there's something to this.
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Postby EyeDoc » Fri Jul 06, 2007 9:17 am

I yawn constantly while I am at the gym. It is not a problem, per se, but I am sure it looks odd to others. Does anyone else have this problem?
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Postby jimmylegs » Fri Jul 06, 2007 11:16 am

i don't yawn, but my nerve conductivity surely bites it! mind you if i yawned in the pool that could be a problem...
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