Thanks For Finally Figuring Out How Brain Freeze Works, Scientists!

Brain freeze is nobody’s friend — and there’s no way we can slow down when it comes to eating ice cream, so it’s one of those necessary evils. The science of the whole painful experience has alluded us for a long time, but now researchers claim they’ve gotten to the bottom of it.

Brain freeze isn’t as hard to study as say, unpredictable migraines. Scientists can make brain freeze happen in their test subjects and then break it down to see what it’s all about. We’d like to think said subjects were paid well to go through such a horrid experience.

LiveScience says scientists were trying to get at migraines, and figured they might have stuff in common with brain freeze. So they had 13 volunteers sip ice water through a straw touching the roof of their mouth. When brain freeze hit, volunteers raised their hands and then raised them again when it went away.

The researchers monitored the blood flow through their brains using an ultrasoundlike 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, then quick constriction, of this blood vessel may be a type of self-defense for the brain, the researchers suggested.

The headache hits because all that blood can’t be cleared as quickly as it comes in, which might raise pressure inside your skull and cause pain.

So now that we know why it happens, we can think about how crazy science is while shoving ice cream down our throats. It’s not like there’s any way to avoid brain freeze if you’re bent on getting icy goodness into your body as quickly as possible. But migraines, if they do turn out to work the same way, could be treated with drugs that stop the blood vessels from opening up so quickly.

Cause of Brain Freeze Revealed [LiveScience]


Edit Your Comment

  1. tooki says:


  2. framitz says:

    Amazing the amount of research needed to uphold the common sense answer that we already knew.

    Next, something “useful”.

  3. RandomLetters says:

    Ice water? At least make the pain worth it. How about a M&M Blizzard? That’s worth a little brain freeze for me.

    • MathMan aka Random Talker says:

      SERIOUSLY! When I read “ice water” I thought the same thing! If you’re gonna put them through the pain at least let them pick the cold-making medium. However, I respect the study a bit more as I assume you can control and record the temperature of the ice water better than cookies ‘n cream ice cream.

  4. ldillon says:

    Eating or drinking something warm can stop the pain.

  5. CalicoGal says:

    But what about the “ice cream pain” between one’s shoulder blades?

  6. SavijMuhdrox says:

    hopefully they take this momentus momentum and move on to something more deserving of their precious research capacity.. like why my urine stinks after eating asparagus.

  7. MrMagoo is usually sarcastic says:

    So ice cream is like Viagra for the brain?

    • MathMan aka Random Talker says:

      If you experience a brain freeze lasting for 4 hours or more, seek immediate medical attention…

  8. ahecht says:

    Ahh, how I miss the fluorescent cylindrical scoops of Thrifty ice cream. If Rite Aid had any sense they would bring that stuff nationwide.

  9. Chris says:

    Is there anyone else here who has never experienced brain freeze? I’ve never felt one – perhaps my anterior cerebral artery doesn’t work properly? I’ve sometimes feel I’m missing out on something but other times I’m happy about it.

  10. majortom1981 says:

    Isnt that why migraine medicine has caffeine in it because it constricts blood vessels? My fioricet has caffeine and so does excedrine migraine.

    So they have already done this (in response to your migraine medicine that constricts blood vessels statement).

    • caddisfly says:

      I was thinking the same thing. “Brain freeze” is about as close to migraine pain as I can describe- were it to last for 3-12 hours straight. All triptans work by constricting blood flow in the brain, as does caffeine to a lesser extent. I’m lucky enough to be allergic to triptans so I take beta blockers every day for the same purpose.

      My migraines would be so easy to manage if they were caused by ice cream. :(

  11. Dave B. says:

    This is news? I saw this on Modern Marvels “Ice Cream” like 2 years ago.