As yawning is often observed in stressful or emotional situations such as tension and anxiety, this suggests that yawning can be considered to be an emotional behavior. However, the neural mechanisms underlying emotion-induced yawning remain unclear. It is well known that the hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus (PVN) is the most important brain structure for induction of yawning behavior. We previously showed that induction of yawning involves the central nucleus of the amygdala (CeA), as well as the PVN. Therefore, emotion-induced yawning could potentially be induced through activation of the direct/indirect neural pathways from the CeA to the PVN. Our present study used a combination of retrograde tracing (injection of Fluoro-Gold (FG) into the PVN) and c-Fos immunohistochemistry to examine the neural pathways that evoke emotion-induced yawning. We additionally performed lesion experiments on the CeA using ibotenic acid, a neurotoxin, to determine whether the CeA is involved in the induction of emotion-induced yawning. Emotional stress by fear conditioning induced yawning behavior, and induced expression of double-labeled cells for c-Fos and FG in the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST), but not in the CeA. Furthermore, the CeA lesions caused by ibotenic acid abolished the induction of emotion-induced yawning. These results suggest that a neural pathway from the CeA to the PVN via the BNST may be primarily involved in the induction of emotion-induced yawning behavior.
- Emotional stress