The Science of Brain Freeze

With summer being whisked away so quickly, and school starting soon for colleges, this seemed to be an appropriate post. I don’t know about all of you, but I absolutely love frozen sweets. Ice cream, frozen yogurt, popsicles, slurpees, you name it!

However, if one consumes their delicious frozen delights at rapid speeds, one will experience the phenomenon known as “brain freeze.”

Brain-Freeze-Ice-Tray_3509-l

Figure. I love puns. Image source: http://www.neatoshop.com/product/Brain-Freeze-Ice-Tray

Also known as Sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia, brain freeze can be characterized by sharp pains at the temples or front side of your head. A common remedy is to place your tongue against  your palate the top of your mouth.

So why precisely would this be a solution?

“The scientists believe the increased blood flow could be part of a temperature-regulation mechanism. When it detects intense cold, the body pumps more blood to the brain to keep it functioning in a warm environment. But that activity may also be raising pressure inside the skull, producing the headaches we call brain freeze. Recovery happens when the artery returns to its normal size.”

— Direct quote about a Harvard medical study from: http://www.thekitchn.com/the-science-of-brain-freeze-the-atlantic-171476

So it seems that your tongue can act as a heat source so that the neurons in your palate that sense temperature and cause this increase in blood can flow stop adding pressure to your skull.

As pointed out by this blog, there could be a possible correlation of this temperature sensing mechanism between what causes migraines and triggers brain freeze: http://thebrainbank.scienceblog.com/2012/09/23/the-science-of-brain-freeze/.

Be sure to check out those blog links and hope you have an ice cream filled day!

gelatos

Figure. Holy mother of YES. Capogiro’s delicious gelato selection. Image source: http://www.uwishunu.com/tag/capogiro/page/2/

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