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April 24, 2012 12:52 AM   Subscribe

Sciencefilter: Cerebral Vascular Blood Flow Changes During 'Brain Freeze.' Also known as Ice Cream Headache, brain freeze has affected many, even medical professionals. Baylor College of Medicine offers additional insight into the mechanism behind it.
posted by zippy (16 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I remember getting brain freeze as a kid, but lost my ability by the time I was a teenager. I almost miss it in some perverse way.
posted by gngstrMNKY at 1:07 AM on April 24, 2012

I got it last week, from a frappuccino. I had forgotten entirely how painful and all encompassing it was.
posted by alltomorrowsparties at 1:19 AM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you are a doctor and the patient presents with brain freeze, the International Headache Society requests that you to refer to this as 13.11.1 (ICHD-II): "Headache attributed to external application of a cold stimulus."
posted by zippy at 1:32 AM on April 24, 2012

Sorry, that should be 13.11.2: Headache attributed to ingestion or inhalation of a cold stimulus

please don't sue me for malpractice (I'm only board certified as a Doctor of Love)
posted by zippy at 1:35 AM on April 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

I wish press releases such as this would offer a direct link to the presentation, refereed journal article or extended abstract. I don't need or want the researchers' words filtered through some publicity officer.
posted by Talkie Toaster at 2:13 AM on April 24, 2012

I've never had one. Wah. I don't have a brain then, do I?

posted by taff at 2:39 AM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

lost my ability by the time I was a teenager

I'm pretty sure you misspled "propensity" there.

This study is particularly fascinating, because as a long-time "Straight Dope" reader, I always remembered that this is one of those things that Cecil kinda blew off with "not many researchers have actually gotten around to studying this kind of goofy phenomenon."

It turns out that science has finally found enough spare time to investigate it. Heh. Progress!

Has anyone done a master's thesis on Piss Shiver yet?
posted by ShutterBun at 2:41 AM on April 24, 2012

Taff, that's because they're not real. At last, i find someone else not in on the brainfreeze conspiracy!
posted by Philby at 2:56 AM on April 24, 2012

Yay, Philby. I suspected that it was the emperor's new brain freeze!
posted by taff at 3:51 AM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

I've always been partial to referred pain hypotheses about brain freeze myself. This is because, while I used to get normal brain freeze only as a kid, for the past eight years or so I've been getting it in my left shoulder. It's basically the same deep, sudden, crippling sensation as brain freeze, just in my shoulder. And I'm not the only one who gets their ice cream headaches somewhere other than their head.
posted by bookish at 4:17 AM on April 24, 2012

Obligatory Simpsons quote;

Dr. Hibbert: I've never seen a brain freeze this bad. Give me 50cc's of hot fudge, stat! Hold still, you're going to feel a slight chocolately sensation...
posted by ninazer0 at 4:29 AM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Has any research been done on the properties of Orange Lazarus?
posted by burnmp3s at 7:13 AM on April 24, 2012

It turns out that science has finally found enough spare time to investigate it. Heh. Progress!

They got around to it because they were looking at migraines and at headaches related to serious head trauma (the VA was involved), which are considerably less goofy. Because they could induce headaches via "Brain Freeze", they were able to work in a lab with test subjects before, during, and after the headaches, rather than wait for sufferers to present at clinics or ERs.

In any case, they noted increased bloodflow and suggested that engorged arteries in the confined space of the skull produce the headache. But why would arteries dilate?
Serrador and his colleagues speculate that the dilation, then quick constriction, 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," he explains. "It's fairly sensitive to temperature, so vasodilation might be moving warm blood inside tissue to make sure the brain stays warm." But because the skull is a closed structure, Serrador adds, the sudden influx of blood could raise pressure and induce pain. The following vasoconstriction may be a way to bring pressure down in the brain before it reaches dangerous levels.
Which is a far more satisfying answer than Dr Whatshisname's answer ("Brain Confusion") in that Baylor additional insight link. And perhaps suggests why some people feel Brain Freeze in their shoulders (or in the center of their upper backs, as I often experienced as a child). Anybody know the courses of the cerebral arteries?
posted by notyou at 8:44 AM on April 24, 2012

What about the painful jaw sensation that happens when you eat something really sweet?
posted by srboisvert at 8:53 AM on April 24, 2012

Would you like some wine with that cheeeese?

No but seriously that guy is awesome.
posted by cman at 9:00 AM on April 24, 2012

I HATE brain freeze.
I think I am abnormally susceptible to it, and worse, despite knowing I am easily triggered, I not only love frozen drinks but am unable to drink them slowly. (I'm having a Crystal Light lemonade slush right now, for that matter.)
So when the brain freeze hits, I get a nice double whammy of *crippling* pain in my head combined with full knowledge that yes, I was indeed asking for it.
posted by John Smallberries at 4:57 PM on April 24, 2012

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