brain freeze -- 8/29/18

Today's selection -- from ASAPScience by Mitchell Moffit & Greg Brown. The facts about brain freeze:

"Typically, brain freeze pain or headaches last around twenty seconds and are triggered when a cold substance touches the roof of your mouth. Similar to when you're in a cold environment, the smallest blood vessels in your body, called capillaries, constrict to conserve heat.

"Many of these capillaries are located in your extremities, and so by constricting they allow heat and blood to be conserved in the core of your body, where your vital organs are. Ever try playing a video game or typing something out after being outside in the cold? Your fingers take a while to adjust to the heat, due to the decreased blood flow they have experi­enced while in the cold.

"The same thing happens to the capillaries in the roof of your mouth. But in this case it's not constriction that causes the pain. Instead, it's the fact that more blood heads to your brain in an effort to keep it warm. And because your brain is contained in your skull, all the extra blood causes an increase in pressure, leading to a headache.  The brain is perhaps the most important organ in your body and has developed extremely fast artery dilation and constriction methods as protection. And so when faced with extreme cold­ whether outside or inside the body -- it reacts immediately.

The trigeminal nerve, shown in yellow, conducts signals from dilating blood vessels in the palate to the brain, which interprets the pain as coming from the forehead.

"But once the substance has been removed or swallowed, the capillaries in your mouth rapidly dilate (expand), potentially causing even more pain.  The same nerve that senses pain in the forehead has receptors on the roof of your mouth that detect the dilated capillaries, and these receptors send a pain signal to your brain. Which is why your forehead often feels the bulk of the pain.

"Scientists have studied brain freeze as a way to learn more about the physiology of regular headaches as well. Unfortunately, there is no other reliable (or ethical) way to induce a headache or migraine in a lab setting. So it was by giving volunteers cold beverages to induce brain freeze that they were able to see the development of headaches in real time.

"By understanding the science of brain freeze, scientists are discovering how headaches and migranes can be controlled using specific vasoconstriction or dilation medicines.

"The next time brain freeze ruins the enjoyment of your favorite ice cream treat, just remember that it's simply your body and brain trying to protect you. You might consider thanking it in return by eating a vegetable every once in a while!"


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author:

Mitchell Moffit

title:

AsapSCIENCE: Answers to the World's Weirdest Questions, Most Persistent Rumours, and Unexplained Phenomena

publisher:

Scribner

date:

Copyright 2015 by AsapSCIENCE Inc

pages:

107-111
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