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Top 5 Brain Freeze Facts

VO: Ashley Bowman
Written by Michael Wynands These Facts are as cold as ice and they're willing to sacrifice our love...for frozen beverages. Welcome to WatchMojo’s Top 5 Facts. In today’s instalment we’re counting down the Top 5 Facts About Brain Freeze. Come along as we explore this head-chilling, mysterious sensation.

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Top 5 Brain Freeze Facts

-Drinking sound- NNNGH AAAGH WHY? Welcome to WatchMojo’s Top 5 Facts. In today’s instalment we’re counting down the Top 5 Facts About Brain Freeze. Come along as we explore this head-chilling, mysterious sensation.

#5: It’s a Condition With Many Names

Freezer head. Cold rush. Cranium cramp. After the widely used “brain freeze”, “ice cream headache” is probably the next most popular term for this common affliction. And why not? If you’re going to be in pain, there’s no point denying how you got there. While sufferers around the world employ these various descriptive terms, researchers prefer to call the condition by it’s science-given name: sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia. And that just rolls off the tongue. The term might be a mouth full, but like it’s colloquial equivalent, the “ice cream headache”, this name is all about accuracy. It means “nerve pain of the Pterygopalatine ganglion”, which is a cluster of nerve cells in the roof of the mouth.

#4: Science Isn’t Quite Sure Why It Happens

They’re getting close though! The explanation behind this fleeting brain pain has long evaded us. But in recent years, researchers have begun to unravel its mysteries. According to Dr. Jorge Serrador of the Harvard Medical School, the pain of brain freeze results from a sudden rush of blood to the brain. He noticed in his research that the moment people feel that distinct sensation, the anterior cerebral artery widens, resulting in greater flow. But the question remains as to why this happens. Serrador suspects that it may be the brain’s attempt to protect itself from extreme cold. While this evolutionary explanation is certainly compelling, it doesn’t explain why some people never experience brain freeze, while get it easily.

#3:It’s Not Actually Brain Pain

For those of us who do experience this distinct sensation, the feeling may be short-lived, but it’s excruciating. When that anterior artery starts pumping blood however, it’s not actually hurting your brain - because the human brain doesn’t have any pain receptors. If we could somehow access your brain right now, without subjecting you to the pain of opening your skull, we could poke it and you wouldn’t feel a thing. What can feel pain is the meninges, the outer layer of membrane that covers the brain, which also just so happens to connect to the anterior artery. So what’s the cure? Be warned, it’s not an answer you’re going to like. Quite simply… slow down when eating or drinking cold stuff!

#2: There's A Connection To Migraines... But We're Not Sure What

Hey... like we said, science still has a lot of work to do when it comes to all things brain freeze-related. Honestly, “ice cream headaches” have never been a top research priority. We know it’s not dangerous, so why investigate further? Well, recent studies have drawn a link between brain freeze and migraines, and as any individual prone to migraines will tell you, that’s worth exploring. Unfortunately, the exact nature of this relationship remains a mystery. According to a 1992 study from the City of London Migraine Clinic, migraine sufferers were less prone to brain freeze. According to the Mayo Clinic however, migraine patients are allegedly more prone to brain freeze. While Dr. Serrador believes that understanding brain freeze can help us better understand migraines, others believe that brain freeze is actually a cure.

#1: It’s Not Medically Serious, But It Can Be Seriously Distracting

Even if Serrador’s theory is correct and an “ice cream headache” is the body’s attempt to protect the brain from what it perceives to be an extreme drop in temperature, it is, as Serrador puts it “misfiring”. According to sinus surgeon Stacey Gray, it’s unlikely that brain freeze actually lowers the temperature of the brain significantly. Even if it were to somehow cause a sharp drop, according to neurosurgeon Rafael Tamargo, “once you warm the brain up, it picks right up from where it left off. It's not harmful at all”. So what’s the real danger? Distraction. In 2013, a San Antonio man experienced such a bad brain freeze that he lost control of his car, causing a five-car accident. Believe it or not, tests came back negative for alcohol. So please... drink Slurpees responsibly.

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