Three Things We Learned About Our Bodies This Month: October '16

How yawning keeps our brains from burning up, why we're genetically wired to crave junk food and why workaholics have weak immune systems.


Our Brains Get Fried If We Don’t Yawn Enough

In an attempt to discover the purpose of yawning, researchers from the State University of New York found a link between yawn duration and density of cortical neurons—a.k.a. the things that make our brains work. In the study, they timed the yawns of numerous mammals—mice yawned on average for 0.8 seconds, while humans yawned for 6.5 seconds—and found that those with more cortical neurons in their brain yawned for longer periods of time.

This supports the theory that yawning has a real purpose: To quickly cool down the brain. The denser the grey matter, the more heat produced, and thus, the need for more cooling (and longer yawns). This doesn’t mean you should stop covering your mouth when you yawn, though—no one wants to see your tonsils.

We Can’t Help Loving Junk Food

After a long search, researchers have finally found the culprit behind your love of fatty foods. No, not the Hamburglar—the MC4R gene. New research out of the University of Cambridge claims that a defective MC4R gene might be responsible for the human craving for fries and pizza. It’s long been assumed that such a gene existed, and that it developed during times of famine to encourage us to eat and store extra fat, but this is the first time the gene itself has been positively identified. As for how this helps you beat those cravings in the short term? It doesn’t. Sorry.

Workaholics Get Sick More Than Regular Folks

Send that OOTO email and pack your best vacation pants, because Queen Mary University of London researchers claim that going on holiday can boost your immune system. In the study, they spruced up the living spaces of mice by adding a running wheel, toys and a colorful box—imitating the change of scenery that humans may experience when they stay at a holiday resort—and saw an immediate increase in infection-fighting molecules in their T cells. So go ahead: Toss the tissues and take that trip. Bon voyage!