The neurology of yawning

Joseph Ducreux pandiculating; self-portrait ca. 1783

A case of unstoppable yawning as migraine aura equivalent leads us to the phenomenology of this very simple, yet poorly understand reflex, from there to its physiology and teleology. But it really gets interesting when we consider the various neurological and other diseases and drugs that can induce or promote yawning. Here are some of the highlights:

  • ICU-wise, in a sick Neuro patient think of elevated ICP, herniation and capsular/hypothalamic processes
  • Migraines like to yawn especially in their aura phase
  • Dopamine agonists, antidepressants and many other drugs can lead to yawning, whereas dopamine antagonists, opiates and anticholinergics can help reduce it

You can find much more information in the references: