What Is A Brain Freeze?

What Is A Brain Freeze? Cold and sweet in the heat. Raj K Raj/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

Has this ever happened to you? You’re eating a delicious ice cream cone or frozen lemonade, so cold and sweet and suddenly, bam, brain freeze! What happened?

A brain freeze is a short, intense pain behind the forehead and temples that occurs after eating something cold too fast. If you get one, don’t worry – your brain isn’t actually freezing. The sensation feels like it’s happening inside your skull, but it really has to do with what’s going on in your mouth.

What Is A Brain Freeze? Mmmmmm. Brrrrrrrr. Ouch! AP Photo/Daniel Maurer

Brain freeze isn’t as common as you might expect. Many studies report that less than half of their participants get them. Scientists still don’t understand why.

What makes a brain freeze hurt?

There’s a lot we know about how a brain freeze works. There’s also a lot we don’t know.

Just beneath the skin on your face is a network of blood vessels that supply the face and brain with blood. Blood contains many nutrients like oxygen, which is essential for your brain to function. Tangled up in this network of vessels are tiny nerve endings connected to one another and the brain through the trigeminal nerve. This nerve makes it possible for you to feel sensations in your face, including pain.

Scientists believe the blood vessels in the throat and mouth and the trigeminal nerve are central to what makes a brain freeze hurt. But they don’t quite agree on which is more responsible for causing the pain.


 Get The Latest From InnerSelf


Most agree that eating or drinking something cold, too quickly, rapidly lowers the temperature at the back of your throat and roof of your mouth. Many also agree this causes the tiny blood vessels in these areas to shrink, allowing less blood to pass through them. This reduces their ability to supply your brain with necessary oxygen in the blood. What happens next is a little blurry.

Pain in the brain means stop!

Some scientists believe the trigeminal nerve responds to these events in your throat and mouth by sending a pain signal to the front of your brain. Whether the nerve is specifically responding to the cold or a sudden reduction of blood and oxygen supply to the brain – or both – is unclear.

Other scientists believe the pain is caused by a rush of blood to the front of your head. Shortly after the vessels in your throat and mouth shrink from the cold, these same vessels immediately expand. By expanding, additional blood and oxygen flood these areas. Although this blood rush might provide your brain with desperately needed blood and oxygen, it also might increase the amount of pressure in your head, causing pain.

The mystery of a brain freeze.

Is a brain freeze dangerous?

A brain freeze may seem like a bad thing at first, but the pain could actually be good. By forcing you to stop eating that delicious but cold treat, the pain from a brain freeze may protect your brain from losing its continuous supply of blood and oxygen.

If you’re worried about a brain freeze, try slowing down. It may be hard with something as delicious as a Bomb Pop on a hot summer day, but at least it will last longer.

About The Author

Tyler Daniel Anderson-Sieg, Doctoral Student in Biomedical Sciences, University of South Carolina

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Recommended Books:

The Harvard Medical School Guide to Tai Chi: 12 Weeks to a Healthy Body, Strong Heart, and Sharp Mind -- by Peter Wayne.

The Harvard Medical School Guide to Tai Chi: 12 Weeks to a Healthy Body, Strong Heart, and Sharp Mind -- by Peter Wayne.Cutting-edge research from Harvard Medical School supports the long-standing claims that Tai Chi has a beneficial impact on the health of the heart, bones, nerves and muscles, immune system, and the mind. Dr. Peter M. Wayne, a longtime Tai Chi teacher and a researcher at Harvard Medical School, developed and tested protocols similar to the simplified program he includes in this book, which is suited to people of all ages, and can be done in just a few minutes a day.

Click here for more info and/or to order this book on Amazon.


Browsing Nature's Aisles: A Year of Foraging for Wild Food in the Suburbs
by Wendy and Eric Brown.

Browsing Nature's Aisles: A Year of Foraging for Wild Food in the Suburbs by Wendy and Eric Brown.As part of their commitment to self-reliance and resiliency, Wendy and Eric Brown decided to spend a year incorporating wild foods as a regular part of their diet. With information on collecting, preparing, and preserving easily identifiable wild edibles found in most suburban landscapes, this unique and inspiring guide is a must-read for anyone who wants to enhance their family's food security by availing themselves of the cornucopia on their doorstep.

Click here for more info and/or to order this book on Amazon.


Food Inc.: A Participant Guide: How Industrial Food is Making Us Sicker, Fatter, and Poorer-And What You Can Do About It -- edited by Karl Weber.

Food Inc.: A Participant Guide: How Industrial Food is Making Us Sicker, Fatter, and Poorer-And What You Can Do About ItWhere has my food come from, and who has processed it? What are the giant agribusinesses and what stake do they have in maintaining the status quo of food production and consumption? How can I feed my family healthy foods affordably? Expanding on the film’s themes, the book Food, Inc. will answer those questions through a series of challenging essays by leading experts and thinkers. This book will encourage those inspired by the film to learn more about the issues, and act to change the world.

Click here for more info and/or to order this book on Amazon.


enafarzh-CNzh-TWnltlfifrdehiiditjakomsnofaptruessvtrvi

follow InnerSelf on

facebook-icontwitter-iconrss-icon

 Get The Latest By Email

{emailcloak=off}

FROM THE EDITORS

Why Donald Trump Could Be History's Biggest Loser
by Robert Jennings, InnerSelf.com
Updated July 2, 20020 - This whole coronavirus pandemic is costing a fortune, maybe 2 or 3 or 4 fortunes, all of unknown size. Oh yeah, and, hundreds of thousands, maybe a million, of people will die…
Blue-Eyes vs Brown Eyes: How Racism is Taught
by Marie T. Russell, InnerSelf
In this 1992 Oprah Show episode, award-winning anti-racism activist and educator Jane Elliott taught the audience a tough lesson about racism by demonstrating just how easy it is to learn prejudice.
A Change Is Gonna Come...
by Marie T. Russell, InnerSelf
(May 30, 2020) As I watch the news on the events in Philadephia and other cities in the country, my heart aches for what is transpiring. I know that this is part of the greater change that is taking…
A Song Can Uplift the Heart and Soul
by Marie T. Russell, InnerSelf
I have several ways that I use to clear the darkness from my mind when I find it has crept in. One is gardening, or spending time in nature. The other is silence. Another way is reading. And one that…
Mascot for the Pandemic and Theme Song for Social Distancing and Isolation
by Marie T. Russell, InnerSelf
I came across a song recently and as I listened to the lyrics, I thought it would be a perfect song as a "theme song" for these times of social isolation. (Lyrics below the video.)