Brain Freeze

What is Brain Freeze?

As of Sunday, it is officially summer (although if you live in Arizona it has felt like summer for about 3 months already). And with every summer, comes the three B’s: beach, BBQ & brain freeze.

The beach…great. BBQ’s…great. Brain freeze…not so great.

We all know the feeling. We are scarfing down some sweet, sweet ice cream when out of nowhere our brain feels like it is about to explode. Doesn’t it know we are eating ice cream? Why on earth would it pick that moment to want our attention?

Let’s find out in today’s Wonder Why Wednesday…

What is Brain Freeze?

Brain freeze, also called an ice-cream headache, is known to scientists as sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia (that name must have been coined by someone in the middle of a brain freeze). Medical News Today says that this short-term headache “occurs when something extremely cold touches the upper-palate (roof of the mouth). It normally happens when the weather is very hot, and the individual consumes something too fast.”

Basically we can blame the ice cream for being too delicious. Who could blame us for wanting to eat it so fast?

But why doesn’t our brain like eating ice cream at a sprinters pace?

Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center neuroscientist Dwayne Godwin, Ph.D., explains that, “Our mouths are highly vascularized, including the tongue — that’s why we take our temperatures there. But drinking a cold beverage fast doesn’t give the mouth time to absorb the cold very well.”

In other words, we have a bunch of sensory organs in our mouth, and when they are hit with a wave of cold liquid, they freak out.

One of these sensory organs, the internal carotoid artery, feeds blood to the brain. When it encounters something cold, it contracts. Sensing the contraction, the brain sends extra blood to that area to warm it up. This causes the blood vessels to expand really quickly.

The brain interprets all this expanding and contracting as pain.

Our brains do not like change – such as the change from warm to cold, or expanding and contracting – and a brain freeze is a mechanism in place to try and prevent that change (no wonder so many of us struggle with change, our own brains can’t handle it, even when it is caused by ice cream). Brain freeze is our body’s way of saying, “slow down, enjoy that ice cream.”

But good news, there is a sure-fire cure to brain freeze. Simply never eat or drink something cold ever again. If you cannot do that, try drinking or eating slowly when dealing with cold items. Still not an option? When the brain freeze hits, quickly put your tongue on the roof of your mouth. This will warm up the temperature in your mouth and cause your brain to relax. You can also drink a warm beverage, as that will help increase the temperature too.



Photo credit: Wikipedia