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Brain Freeze Discovered

Researchers saw that sipping the water caused a sudden blood flow increase to a key artery found in the brain. The piercing headache pain then followed. The researchers speculate that the quick alterations in blood flow that come with brain freeze might be part of some type of built-in survival mechanism from long ago.

The brain, being one of our most important organs, and sensitive to temperature, may simply be responding to sudden cold by moving blood into the tissue to be sure it stays warm enough. Since the brain is housed within a closed structure (the skull), the sudden increase in blood would bring up the pressure, causing pain.

If future work confirms the findings on blood flow, experts feel that developing medications that control the flow of blood to the brain might help ease brain freeze and other, longer lasting headaches. These headaches have been particularly hard to study because no one can say for sure when a migraine will come on, and by the time the patient is alerted, researchers often don’t pick up on the physiological changes which take place as the headache is getting started. Studying the brain freeze type of headache hopefully will lend clues to other headache types as well.

And while you’re not likely to give up your favorite ice cream or ice filled drink, there are things you can do to avoid known causes of brain freeze. Keep cold foods from touching the rood of your mouth – let ice cream or cold drinks warm on your tongue first. You might also try quickly warming the roof (palate) of your mouth by pressing your balled-up tongue (or thumb) right against it – act quick enough and you might stop brain freeze in its tracks. Drinking something warm can also help as does making a mask with your hands to cover your mouth and nose and then breathe quickly as this brings up the temperature inside your mouth.