Sad fact: Ice cream, gelato, slushies and other frozen delights have a sucky side — and, no, not the empty sugary calories. It’s that all too common and painful side effect that goes by many names: ice cream headache, cold stimulus headache, sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia (if you’re all science-y and such) and, of course, brain freeze. It happens when you (or an unwitting cat) consume something very cold very quickly.
While the cause “hasn’t been completely nailed down … brain freeze is a misnomer,” neuroscientist Dwayne Godwin, Ph.D., told the Daily News. “Rather than actually freezing your brain it appears to be the change in temperature in the arteries that pass near the soft palate and enter the brain that may be the culprit.”
In short, very cold eats + roof of your mouth = blood vessel changes = Yikes!
“There’s a difference between blood vessels that are in the brain, and those outside the brain in the brain’s outer covering,” said Godwin, a professor and dean biomedical graduate programs at Wake Forest University. “Changes in the temperature of blood vessels inside the brain would have no effect other than cooling the brain.” That’s because the brain itself doesn’t have pain receptors. The brain’s covering does.
Brain freeze is nasty, but short-lived. One suggested remedy, per Medical News Today: Push your tongue to the roof of the mouth to warm the area. Or cover your nose and mouth with your hands and breathe rapidly. Another alternative: Slow down when you slurp or eat frosty treats. Or just avoid them. Because, obviously.