The mind-numbing pain of "brain freeze" is a feeling those of us who love to quickly slurp down a cold drink know all too well. Scientists have never fully been able to explain why brain freeze happens, but now a new study is offering some insight. The study was actually conducted in an effort to better understand migraine headaches, since it turns migraine sufferers are more likely to get brain freeze. So researchers theorized that brain freeze and migraines may have a common mechanism: changes in brain blood flow.
To look at this effect, they induced brain freeze in study participants—sounds like fun—and then looked at what was happening in their brains. What they found was that one particular artery in the brain, the anterior cerebral artery, became rapidly dilated, flooding the brain with blood, when participants felt brain freeze. As soon as the same vessel constricted, participants' pain went away. So, that explains why your head feels like it's going to explode when you take a few too many bites of cold ice cream.
But does it also explain why some of us unfortunate souls get migraines? Researchers think a similar change in blood flow could be the cause of migraines and other types of headaches, like those experienced after traumatic injuries. If further research confirms this, then finding a way to control blood flow into the brain could offer relief to migraine sufferers—though we'll all probably have to keep enduring brain freezes until the end of time.
Changes in Brain's Blood Flow Could Cause 'Brain Freeze' [ScienceDaily]
Image via Kzenon/Shutterstock.