Yawning is often observed not only in a state of boredom or drowsiness but also in stressful emotional situations, suggesting that yawning is an emotional behavior. However, the neural mechanisms for yawning during stressful emotional situations have not been fully determined, though previous studies have suggested that both parvocellular oxytocin (OT) and corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) neurons in the hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus (PVN) are responsible for induction of yawning. Thus, using ethological observations and c-Fos immunohistochemistry, we examined whether emotional stress evoked by classical fear conditioning is involved in induction of yawning behavior in freely moving rats. Emotional stress induced yawning behavior that was accompanied by anxiety-related behavior, and caused neuronal activation of the central nucleus of the amygdala (CeA), as well as increases in activity of both OT and CRF neurons in the PVN. These results suggest that emotional stress may induce yawning behavior, in which the neuronal activation of the CeA may have a key role.
Keywords: Amygdala; Emotional stress; Fear conditioning; Immunohistochemistry; PVN; Yawning.
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