What Causes Brain Freeze When You Eat Ice Cream? [Video]
It's happened to the best of us, we're enjoying our ice cream on a hot summer day. It tastes so good that we gulp it down in a hurry. The next thing you know, ouch my head hurts!
Summertime is unofficially here and the ice cream stands are open! That's great news right?! Well almost. I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream; but sometimes we're screaming because of an ice cream headache!
You venture out with your family to your favorite Mohawk Valley ice cream shop and order a soft serve twist with rainbow sprinkles. It tastes awesome, but the searing pain in your head is excruciating! I'm not so sure you really want to know what causes this unwelcome brain freeze, but just in case, here you go!
When something cold touches the roof of your mouth (your palate), the sudden temperature change of the tissue stimulates nerves to cause rapid dilation and swelling of blood vessels. This is an attempt to direct blood to the area and warm it back up. The dilation of the blood vessels triggers pain receptors, which release pain-causing prostaglandins, increase sensitivity to further pain, and produce inflammation while sending signals through the trigeminal nerve to alert the brain to the problem. Because the trigeminal nerve also senses facial pain, the brain interprets the pain signal as coming from the forehead. This is called 'referred pain' since the cause of the pain is in a different location from where you feel it. Brain freeze typically hits about 10 seconds after chilling your palate and lasts about half a minute. Only a third of people experience brain freeze from eating something cold, though most people are susceptible to a related headache from sudden exposure to a very cold climate.
Now don't you feel smart?
Here's a video of a cat eating ice cream and getting a brain freeze.