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Brain Res Cogn Brain Res. 2005 May;23(2-3):448-52. Epub 2005 Jan 26.

Contagious yawning and the brain.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, Drexel University, 1505 Race Street, Mail Stop 626, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA. platek@drexel.edu

Abstract

Contagious yawning, the onset of a yawn triggered by seeing, hearing, reading, or thinking about another person yawn is a well-documented phenomenon. The mechanisms that drive contagious yawning are as yet unknown, but there is recent evidence of a link between contagious yawning and self-processing (S.M. Platek, S.R. Critton, T.E. Myers, G.G. Gallup Jr., Contagious yawning: the role of self-awareness and mental state attribution, Cogn. Brain Res. 17 (2003) 223-227.) that is negatively impacted by schizotypal personality traits. The neural substrates involved in contagious yawning, however, are unknown. Here, using fMRI, we show that viewing someone yawn evokes unique neural activity in the posterior cingulate and precuneus. Because of the role these areas play in self-processing (e.g., self-referential processing, theory of mind, autobiographical memory), our findings provide further support for the hypothesis that contagious yawning may be part of a neural network involved in empathy.

PMID:
15820652
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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