Why “Brain Freeze” is a Misleading Term…

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“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. ” Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center neuroscientist Dwayne Godwin, Ph.D. told Science Daily.  “Brain freeze is really a type of headache that is rapid in onset, but rapidly resolved as well.”

Sphenopalatine Ganglioneuralgia or “Brain Freeze” is really your brain’s way of slow down on that smoothie, cold drink or ice cream. When you rapidly change the temperature at the back of the throat at the juncture of the internal carotoid artery, which feeds blood to the brain, and the anterior cerebral artery, which is where brain tissue starts. Researchers have found that a “brain freeze” occurs when a dramatic and sudden increase in blood flow through the brain’s anterior cerebral artery.

“One thing the brain doesn’t like is for things to change, and brain freeze is a mechanism to prevent you from doing that,” Godwin said. Despite the the fact that it hurts like hell, the brain itself doesn’t actually feel pain, rather as Godwin explained it associated pain via receptors in the outer covering of the brain called the meninges, where the two arteries meet. When the cold hits, it causes a dilation and contraction of these arteries and that’s the sensation that the brain is interpreting as pain.

Remedies include pressing the tongue against the roof of the mouth to warm the area, while other doctors recommend  tilting the head back for about 20 seconds. Another method to relieve ice-cream headaches is to drink a liquid that has a slightly higher temperature than the substance that caused the ice-cream headache. The goal is to normalize the temperature in your mouth.

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