brain freeze explained

25 March, 2008


Why do we get “brain freeze” when we eat something cold?
-Christina Zuniga, via e-mail

Mark A. W. Andrews, professor of physiology and director of the Independent Study Pathway at the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine, replies:

This commonly experienced pain, also known as an ice cream headache, results from quickly eating or drinking very cold substances. Officially termed sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia (talk about a painful mouthful!), it is the di­rect result of the rapid cooling and rewarming of the blood vessels in the palate, or the roof of the mouth. A similar but painless blood vessel response causes the face to appear “flushed” after being outside on a cold day. In both instances, the cold temperature causes blood vessels to constrict and then experience extreme rebound dilation as they warm up again.

In the palate, this dilation is sensed by nearby pain receptors, which then send signals back to the brain via the trigeminal nerve, one of the major nerves of the facial area. This nerve also senses facial pain, so as the signals are conducted the brain interprets the pain as coming from the forehead—the same “referred pain” phenomenon seen in heart attacks. Brain-freeze pain may last from a few seconds to a few minutes, which is blissfully short as compared with the duration of its cousin, the migraine headache. Research suggests that the same vascular mechanism and nerve implicated in brain freeze cause the aura (sensory disturbance) and pulsatile (throbbing pain) phases of migraines. Interestingly, it is impossible to give yourself an ice cream headache in cold weather—only in a warm ambient temperature will it hurt to wolf down a banana split.

Fortunately, abstaining from ice cream is not necessary. Placing the tongue hard against the palate may help, as will eating cold foods more slowly or warming food in the front of your mouth before swallowing.

Don’t you feel so much better now!!?! I do.



1 December, 2006

And look….they are mostly cheese.

I must find a way to combine this and my clone fantasy.

Happy May Day!

30 April, 2006

Happy May Day!, originally uploaded by techne.

Today is Bryn Mawr College's May Day celebration (in fact, a Grand May Day this year). In honor of the day I had myself a traditional breakfast of strawberries and cream. You can learn more about how BMC does May Day on my friend Carolyn's page. Or you can ask me today, because I think I will be carrying around my May Day photo album.

Cubs win

8 April, 2006

Damn, was it ever cold….but it was a very enjoyable game. Exciting, and watching the Cubs outclass the Cardinals is a rare treat that I hope we're in for more of this year. They really played well, and got a good share of lucky breaks. The wind blew in, which helped Maddux (who easily got the win), and it messed with their fielders but not ours. With Pierre batting (boy is it nice to have a leadoff guy, esp one who can bunt for hits) Dusty called for a suicide squeeze — against a LaRussa team, haha! It got away from everyone and eventually rolled foul, but Cedeno scored before it did, so while it didn't count, there is some satisfaction to be felt over the play. "Neener," I believe is the appropriate term. Thanks to wolfhead, the heir to my family's season tickets, for taking me today, and to his hilarious dad for not insisting on his paternal rights to opening day seats!

let the rivalry begin

Dusty and LaRussa shake hands during the Opening Day festivities.

Took a ton of pictures — had trouble getting in the groove at first, though. I've been anticipating shooting Wrigley for a long time, but also anticipating that when I'd actually get there I'd have trouble seeing shots because of all the baggage I was bringing. Lensbaby to the rescue (thanks dcjohn!). Using it did the trick of pushing me outside the familiar way of seeing things, and after that I had no trouble seeing cool stuff. I became crazy lens-changing girl, changing lenses all the time, trying to keep up with the ideas and the action. Good times. I missed keeping score, but only a little.

upper deck bunting, Opening Day 2006, Wrigley Field

I did run into trouble though: I'm an idjit who didn't bring her spare battery to the game. Luckily, I had learned some tricks on our NYC blizzard weekend for extending battery life in cold weather (thanks f1.4 and epmd!). Despite hitting low battery levels before the game even started, I managed to squeeze shots out of Rita until the ushers kicked us out afterwards. Wolfhead let me use his new Nikon and its spiff-o-matic 24-120 if I desired (thanks again!). (I got some awesome action shots with it that I'll be posting later.) Also, I get a second chance: I'm going to Sunday's game, which will be a 7pm start (thanks noptys!). Hooray for a possible golden hour–it was bright and cloudy today, meaning pure white near-blown-out skies alla time. Not pretty for the panoramas I've been planning.

Yay Chicago! I'm staying at the apt I used to live in. I've had stuffed pizza, oh god, was it ever divine, fresh spinach from Edwardo's. I've had Julius Meinl, I miss that place a lot…Tryst is nice and all, but Meinl is more "mine." Seen old friends, seeing more tomorrow, sister arrived a bit ago….

So things are going as I hoped they would on this trip to the Midwest. I have not yet seen the Cubs bullpen blow a lead, but there's two more games this weekend for that! Looking forward to Big Z's start tomorrow.

Canon Digital Rebel 300D

28 January, 2006

me with MY NEW BABY, originally uploaded by techne.

Me with my new toy! Click through to flickr to see some of my first pics with it.

It needs a name, I think.

What a day I had, Fridays are so nuts sometimes. I got in early and discovered just how late my lab rolls in (9:20). I was there early to prep my Journal Club. While I knew it would go fine and be casual and everything, I still had to spaz and cram to get the adrenaline flowing for a good presentation. It worked (as always), and was actually necessary: I made a table at the last minute that ended up being the hinge of the whole presentation.

I had an exhausting afternoon: “now that you’re done with Journal Club, here’s everything you put on hold for it in work and personal life and you have to put all these fires out RIGHT NOW.” So that happened. Fires not all out, but most banked for the weekend at least. Just in time for writing my portion of my PI’s BSC review for next Thursday…oy.

While the evening was better (got my new camera, had dinner with a friend from Chicago, and went to a friend’s house to drink his housewarming beer), I always realize around 9 or 10 on a Friday just how long I’ve been going for. I once slept through a war movie on a crazy Friday night (I’m told that I woke up, looked around and went back to sleep when the action slowed, and slept through the firefights). A strategic cappucino reserve prevented my pumpkination this evening, but then my new toy has kept me up til now…and me with baseball practice tomorrow at noon an hour’s drive away!

BTW, I am easily bored by Italian food, but Odeon Cafe on Connecticut north of Dupont Circle? Best Italian I’ve had in some time. Dining partner agreed. Interesting that it’s just a block or so down from Bistrot du Coin which is my favorite FRENCH restaurant in town…