The Truth Behind Ice Cream Headaches

The scientific cause of brain freezes

Ice cream season is just around the corner, which means sunny weather, outdoor meals, and, of course, brain freezes (also known as ice cream headaches) are also imminently in store. It's been suggested that the cause of these uncomfortable bouts is the rewarming of blood vessels in the sinuses. However, researchers at Harvard Medical School have discovered a new explanation.

The researchers used Doppler imaging to monitor brain flow in 27 subjects while they experienced a brain freeze after drinking icy water. The study shows that the freeze is accompanied by rapid dilation of the anterior cerebral artery, which causes discomfort by flooding the brain with blood. Researchers suggest that the reaction is triggered by the brain to protect against rapid temperature changes.

The findings are being presented at the Experimental Biology 2012 Conference this week, and the team hopes their research will help to pinpoint the causes of other post-traumatic headaches, such as migraines.