Link #22: Brain Freeze Is Actually A Mistake Of The Brain!

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Link #22: Brain Freeze Is Actually A Mistake Of The Brain!

Ice cream headache
Ice cream headache by Lori Hurley

There are no lack of wonders in this world. In our last post, we explained how rocks can move all by themselves and before that we talked about moving continents! However, as many surprises as nature has for us, our body has even more. You know that incredibly annoying problem related to ice cream? The one where your brain freezes? Well, it’s caused by a mistake in the wiring of our brains.

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When Does Brain Freeze Occur?

Brain Freeze
Brain Freeze by Jayel Aheram cc2.0

Every person in the world knows about brain freeze, although some people may call it by a different name such as ice cream headache. In fact, if you’ve ever eaten ice cream then you probably know what ice cream headache is like.

Brain freeze or ice cream headache is a shooting pain one may suffer when eating something cold really quickly. This includes everything from ice cream to extremely cold, cold drinks. When you eat something really cold and it touches your mouth’s upper palette long enough to cool it, brain free occurs.


How Does Brain Freeze Occur?

Trigeminal
Trigeminal by btarski GFDL

In simple terms, brain freeze is a result of a series of events. It is common for the cold food or drink you are having, to touch the upper palette of your mouth. When this happens, the blood vessels (capillaries) in your nasal cavity (sinuses) tighten up.

Because the blood vessels constrict suddenly, it causes your body to think that you’re injured in that region. Effectively, your body tries to rush the blood into the area by expanding (dilating) the previously tightened blood vessels.

This sudden dilation is then sensed by pain receptors nearby as pain. These receptors send this information to the brain. So, when the brain receives these signals, it thinks that the pain is coming from the head region. It is this whole process that creates the shooting pain sensation in your head.

You can feel this brain freeze pain for anything between a few seconds to several minutes. How frequently you get brain freeze depends entirely on the temperature of the food item you are having, the temperature around you, and even your general health.


Ice Cream Headache Is Similar To Heart Attacks!

Referred Pain Chart
Referred Pain Chart by OpenStax College cc3.0

Did you know that the process that causes brain freeze is exactly why people feel pain in different parts of their bodies when they’re having a heart attack? When a person loses blood flow to heart muscles, he often feels pain in his left shoulder, arm, forearm, or hand.

The process, that causes you to sense pain in a region of your body other than where the actual problem, is called referred pain or reflective pain. Apart from brain freeze and heart attacks, there are other body parts which are ideal examples for being associated with the phenomenon of referred pain.

For example, if you injure your forearm, you may feel pain in your palm instead of the forearm. Similarly, many people who’ve lost a limb feel what is called phantom pain i.e. pain in the limb that no longer exists.




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Sources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Referred_pain
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ice-cream_headache#Cause_and_frequency
http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2004/01/23/1074732585442.html?from=storyrhs
http://chemistry.about.com/od/howthingsworkfaqs/f/how-brain-freeze-works.htm

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