Biographies de neurologues
Nouvelle Iconographie de La Salpêtrière
 L'histoire des neurosciences à La Pitié et à La Salpêtrière J Poirier
The history of neurosciences at La Pitié and La Salpêtrière J Poirier 

mise à jour du
12 novembre 2006 
The Lancet
August 23; 1952


To most minds yawning is an infectious habit of the bored ; but it may also arise from hunger, overeating, drowsiness, or bad ventilation; and it may come on with gastro-intestinal disturbances, after severe haemorrhage, in association with hysteria, as an aura of epilepsy, and in encephalitis, Huntington's chorea, and cerebellar abscess or tumour.
The yawn may not be restricted to man. Crämer suggested that the gaping of fishes, amphibians, and reptiles was closely analagous; and the gaping hen beating its wings on tiptoe is an everyday sight to the poultry-keeper.
Mayer found that during the first part of the inspiratory phase there is expansion of the chest with descent of the diaphragm and larynx, elevation of the alae nasi and soft palate, downward and backward displacement of the tongue, abduction of the vocal cords, and opening of the mouth. This is immediately followed by closing of the eyes and stretching, notably of the muscles of the neck and upper limbs.
Mayer described yawning as an automatic expression of cerebral fatigue, in the sense that crying and laughing are expressions of sorrow and joy; while Hauptmann suggested that it combated the loss of muscle-tone which results from enforced inactivity of the higher cerebral centres.
Dumpert suggested that it occurred when the cerebral circulation was unfavourably adjusted to maintain an alert state; he also held that it augmented the venous return to the heart, which in turn improved the arterial blood-supply to the tissues.
Heusner reviewed the evidence and showed that in the fingers and toes of normal adults yawning was followed by vasoconstriction, which was roughly proportional to the depth and duration of the inspiratory movement, and that it was attended by transient acceleration of the heart.
These changes are similar to those recorded after deep inspiration. There is thus some reason for regarding the yawn as a mechanism for countering physiological aberration.
Yawning the Lancet 1905
Yawning Lancet 1952
Yawning: its physiology and psychology Lancet 1921