Answers to why our bodies do odd everyday things

Posted at 1:27 PM, Nov 21, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-21 18:07:02-05

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - Do you ever wonder why your body does certain things, like yawn or hiccup?

News 3 Anchor Beverly Kidd enlisted the help of some smart, curious 5th graders at Indian lakes Elementary in Virginia Beach so we could find out why the human body does some weird things.  We also asked our medical expert Dr. Phillip Snider of Bon Secours to answer questions to these sometimes mysterious body ticks.

Student question: "I’m Lillian Yoder, and I want to know why yawning is contagious?”

Dr. Snider response: "There are neurons in your brain that are called mirror neurons and we tend to mimic people around us especially people that we trust that we are familiar with. And whenever they do something we tend to mirror that. You can actually do an experiment when you’re out and about to see if two people and  you can tell if they are getting along well because one will mirror the other a couple of seconds afterwards. So when one folds their arms the other will fold their arms when one does this they’ll do that. Its one of the things I tell my weight loss patients is be aware of that because we tend to eat about 20% more food when we’re around other people.”

Student question: "Can you tickle yourself?”

Dr. Snider response: “No you cannot tickle yourself. There’s a part of your brain at the back called the cerebellum and the cerebellum is what controls our movements. Our cerebellum often works with our motor planning cortex and lets us expect different sensations so if we go to do this to ourselves we expect to feel fingers on our stomach whereas when someone comes up and tickles you even though you may see it you don’t quite expect it.”

Student question: “I’m Troi Huntley and I’m asking you, why do we hiccup?"

Dr. Snider response: “The normal hiccup a few minutes or annoyingly maybe an hour or so its just because something in that part of the nervous system has gotten irritated. Certain diseases can cause people to hiccup for a really long time and sometimes certain types of brain damage. There’s a nerve on the top or roof of the mouth that if you stimulate that that tends to override that so some people will put a teaspoon of sugar in their mouth and kind of rub it that’s the whole glass of water."

Student question: “Why do our stomachs growl when we’re hungry?”

Dr. Snider response:  “The stomach growls because we actually make a hormone called graelin and some people call it growlin and it just increases our activity in our stomach when we’re ready to eat.”

Student question: “Why do people sneeze when they get into the sunlight?"

Dr. Snider response:  “10-35% of people depending on which survey you see have a gene that makes them more susceptible to whenever any type of bright light is around their eyes they have a sneeze reflex.”

So the good news is that for the most part, some of the most common body ticks are harmless and normal!