Last weekend, my husband and I went to Sonic and we swore to tell no one. Well, here I am three days later breaking our vow, writing an article about our shameful, secret stop. But I promise the story is relevant.
We both ordered a little ice cream and my husband, a strawberry slush. And about three seconds into his first big slurp, he slapped his hand against his head and called ‘brain freeze!’
It was kind of cute, but it’s also the pits when it happens to you. But have you ever wondered what causes that? Is it from simply sucking too fast? Is it strictly relevant to the temperature of the beverage or dessert? Or does it have more to do with personal sensitivities?
I don’t get brain freezes, only what I call ‘throat freezes.’ And I also don’t get headaches. But my husband on the other hand? Brain freezes and migraines. Is there a connection between the two? That’s what researchers are trying to find out.
According to an article in CNN, a group of researchers presented a study they’d conducted on the topic of the dreaded brain freeze at the Experimental Biology conference in San Diego this week.
What researchers were hoping to determine was what exactly causes a brain freeze. They were then hoping to use those findings to further expand research in the areas of migraines and post-traumatic headaches.
The group asked 27 volunteers to drink ice water from a straw pressed against the roof of their mouth, which has been determined as the optimal placement to induce a brain freeze. The participants were then asked to raise their hands when they began to experience pain, then to stop drinking and raise their hand again when the pain dissipated.
The researchers monitored the participants’ blood flow through the brain’s blood vessels using a device called a ‘transcranial Doppler.’ And what they found was that blood flow increased dramatically in the anterior cerebral artery when the participants felt pain – the artery that feeds the brain’s frontal lobe, linking it to the forehead pain we experience during a brain freeze. Researchers also reported that the vessel constricted again once the pain diminished.
Some possible conclusions from the study are that increased blood flow to the frontal lobe can increase pressure and cause a headache-like sensation. Another is that the cold substance could be targeting a nerve in the upper palate, that can also inflict brain pain. And still another that the brain could simply be sensitive to temperature.
Although the findings weren’t terribly telling, a few other studies have previously shown that people who suffer from migraines also suffer from brain freezes. However, more research is needed to prove any definite connection.
In any case, I do find this study interesting since I don’t get headaches or brain freezes and my husband gets both. So until more conclusive research is done, I’ll be the one pointing and laughing when he slurps his drink too fast, and I’ll just fend off my ‘throat freeze.’
April 25th, 2012