Cause of nefarious 'ice cream headaches' revealed
Also known as 'brain freeze.' Pain is associated with drinking cold liquids
It usually comes as one enjoys ice cream or an unexpectedly cool
beverage - as soon as it hit the roof of the mouth, pain registers in
the temples and across the forehead. The phenomenon is called "brain
freeze" or "Ice cream headache." Researchers now have a clue about what
Previous studies have found that migraine sufferers are actually more likely to get brain freeze than people who don't get migraines.
Headaches like migraines are difficult to study as they are unpredictable. Researchers aren't able to monitor a whole one from start to finish in the lab. They can give drugs to induce migraines, but those can also have side effects that interfere with the results. In contrast, brain freeze can quickly and easily be used to start a headache in the lab; it ends quickly, making the monitoring of the entire event easy.
Thirteen healthy volunteers were asked to sip ice water through a straw right up against the roof of their mouth. The volunteers raised their hands when they felt the familiar brain freeze come on, and raised them again once it disappeared.
Scientists monitored the blood flow through their brains using an ultrasound-like process on the skull. They saw that increased blood flow to the brain through a blood vessel called the anterior cerebral artery, which is located in the middle of the brain behind the eyes. This increase in flow and resulting increase in size in this artery brought on the pain associated with brain freeze.
When the artery constricts, reining in the response to this increased flow, the pain disappears. The dilation and rapid constriction of this blood vessel may be a type of self-defense for the brain.
"The brain is one of the relatively important organs in the body, and it needs to be working all the time," study researcher Jorge Serrador, of Harvard Medical School, said in a statement. "It's fairly sensitive to temperature, so vasodilatation [the widening of the blood vessels] might be moving warm blood inside tissue to make sure the brain stays warm."
However, the influx of blood can't be cleared as quickly as it is coming in during the brain freeze, so it could raise the pressure inside the skull and induce pain that way. As the pressure and temperature in the brain rise, the blood vessel constricts, reducing pressure in the brain before it reaches dangerous levels.
It follows that if other headaches work in the same way, drugs that stop these blood vessels from opening up, or that could make this blood vessel constrict could help treat them.
© 2012, Catholic Online. Distributed by NEWS CONSORTIUM.
- - -
Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: Ice cream headaches, brain freeze, dilation, defense mechanism, blood vessels
Rate This Article
Leave a Comment
More Health News
- HIV resurgent among Navajo tribe as deadly cases spike
- UK to give cancer patients genetic analysis just like Angelina Jolie
- Vitamin D found beneficial in treating asthma symptoms
- Study: Depressed women in 40s, 50s suffer more than twice for stroke risk
- Some experts say it's biologically possible to clone a human
- Study: Women live longer than men as their immune systems age more slowly
- Man declared dead for 40 minutes brought back to life with revolutionary machine
- IPad2 poses risks to those with pacemakers, 14-year-old girl discovers
- New SARS-like virus can likely be spread person-to-person
- Fr. Paul Schenck: Finding Living Faith on Catechetical Sunday
- The Movie Yellow: Incest as 'Normal' and Cassavates's Slides Into the World of Woes
- The Chicago School Teachers Strike Reveals the Need For School Choice
- The Sexual Barbarians and the Dissolution of Culture
- The Happy Priest Challenges Us to Ask: Who is Jesus to Me?
- Michael Coren on Canadian Public Schools: Teachers, leave those kids alone
- We Cannot Ignore Our Consciences: Cardinal Dolan On Religious Liberty
- In the Face of Danger, Successor of Peter Travels to Lebanon as a Messenger of Peace
- Reflections on the Dignity and Vocation of Women: Who or What?