September 10, 2012

It was a hot day on Saturday, and I decided to have some ice cream. After a couple of cold, delicious bites - OUCH! Brain Freeze!!

Have you ever had this feeling when you eat or drink something cold? All of a sudden you get a sharp headache. It doesn’t last long, but for a few seconds, it’s pretty uncomfortable.

It turns out that researchers have learned quite a bit about brain freeze by designing an experiment where they asked volunteers to sip a very cold drink, right up against the roof of their mouth. The volunteers were told to raise their hand as soon as they felt brain freeze starting, and raise their hand again when the headache stopped.

While this was happening, scientists were looking at a scan of each volunteer’s brain. When the brain freeze headache started, a rush of blood suddenly flowed into the anterior cerebral artery, which is located in the middle of the brain, behind the eyes. This increased blood flow caused the artery to expand, pushing painfully against the tissue surrounding it. Then after a few seconds - and right when volunteers raised their hands a second time - the artery rapidly returned to normal size.

The brain is one of the most important organs in our body - it needs to work well all the time. The brain is also quite sensitive to temperature, so researchers think that what is probably happening is that your body is rushing warm blood to the brain tissue to make sure your brain stays warm when you eat something very cold. Once the temperature in the brain rises back to normal, the extra blood isn’t needed, the artery goes back to normal size, and the pressure stops, which stops the pain.

So next time you have brain freeze, you can be glad that your brain is taking care of itself. And relax, because it will be over soon!



Read and learn more about your brain - the part of of your body that makes you, you!


Posted by: Seymour Simon

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