Thermal imaging reveals sizable shifts in facial temperature surrounding yawning in budgerigars (Melopsittacus undulatus).
Temperature (Austin). 2017;4(4):429-435
Authors: Gallup AC, Herron E, Militello J, Swartwood L, Cortes C, Eguibar JR
Accumulating comparative and interdisciplinary research supports a brain cooling function to yawning. In particular, previous research has shown significant decreases in both brain and skull temperature following yawning in mammals. In a recent study using a thermal imaging camera, significant reductions in both the cornea and concha temperature were observed following yawns in the high-yawning subline of Sprague-Dawley rats. Here, we performed a similar experiment to investigate shifts in facial temperature surrounding yawning in an avian species with more typical yawning patterns: budgerigars (Melopsittacus undulatus). In particular, we took maximal surface temperature recordings from the face (cere or eye) from 13 birds over a one-hour period to track changes before and after yawns. Similar to previous findings in high-yawning rats, we identified significant cooling (-0.36°C) of the face 10-20 seconds following yawning in budgerigars. Consistent with the hypothesis that yawns serve a thermoregulatory function, facial temperatures were slightly elevated just prior to yawning and then decreased significantly below baseline levels immediately thereafter. Similarly, birds that yawned during the trials had consistently higher facial temperatures compared to those that did not yawn. Moreover, yawn latency and overall yawn frequency were strongly correlated with the highest facial temperature recorded from each bird across trials. These results provide convergent evidence in support of a brain cooling function to yawning, and further validate the use of thermal imaging to monitor changes in skull temperature surrounding yawning events.
PMID: 29435482 [PubMed]