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Can Brain Freeze Kill You?

Thursday, 30 Jun 2016 03:26 PM

Have you ever suffered from the effects of brain freeze? The experience is also known as ice cream headache because it brings on brief, agonizing pain in the temples right after eating something frozen.

Although the piercing headache from pressure inside the skull can feel momentarily deadly, it wouldn’t cause death because of the way the brain reacts. As the pressure and temperature build up, blood vessels constrict before the pressure reaches dangerous levels, according to LiveScience.

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Researchers have studied brain freeze to help understand migraine headaches. Migraine sufferers are at increased risk for developing brain freeze.

In a study, 13 volunteers sipped ice water through a straw aimed at the roof of their mouth. They raised their hands when brain freeze occurred and when it stopped.

The researchers found that blood flow increased in a blood vessel in the brain during brain freeze. The vessel in the middle of the brain caused the temporary pain of brain freeze when it increased. However, the pain ends as the blood vessel constricts, which suggests a self-defense mechanism in the brain.

The brain is “fairly sensitive to temperature,” notes study researcher Jorge Serrador of Harvard Medical School, according to LiveScience. The widening blood vessels “might be moving warm blood inside tissue to make sure the brain stays warm.”

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Brain freeze is actually the brain’s way of telling you to slow down, says Dr. Dwayne Godwin, a neuroscientist at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

“Brain freeze is really a type of headache that is rapid in onset, but rapidly resolved as well,” Godwin says.

The brain doesn’t really feel pain, which is detected by receptors surrounding it, causing arteries on the outer covering of the brain to contract. The brain interprets this as pain.

When a person eats or drinks something very cold, the brain doesn’t like the sudden change, so “brain freeze is a mechanism to prevent you from doing that,” Godwin explains.

Neurosurgeons often cool the brain, dropping it more than 30 degrees below normal, when treating blood vessel problems such as an aneurysm, Dr. Rafael Tamargo of Johns Hopkins Hospital tells Popular Science.

“Once you warm the brain up, it picks right up from where it left off,” Tamargo says. “It’s not harmful at all.”

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Have you ever suffered from the effects of brain freeze? The experience is also known as ice cream headache because it brings on brief, agonizing pain in the temples right after eating something frozen.
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2016-26-30
Thursday, 30 Jun 2016 03:26 PM
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