What Causes a Brain Freeze?


We’ve all experienced it before. You come home after a work-out or a long day in the sun, and your first instinct is to grab the coldest drink you can find. You start gulping down the drink a mile an hour too quickly andBAMM ahhh that awkward, face-scrunching feeling of a brain freeze. But what exactly causes a brain freeze? and why is the pain in the forehead, after all, shouldn’t it be somewhere in the mouth?


We’ll take a look at the two most common theories since many others exist.

Theory #1

When a cold food or beverage touches the roof of your mouth, the sudden drop in temperature constricts the capillaries in your sinuses. As a self-defense mechanism, blood is quickly rushed to those capillaries to warm up the surrounding tissue. The warmer blood causes the capillaries to rapidly expand. This rapid constriction and expansion of capillaries triggers the pain receptors to send pain signals. The pain signals travel to the brain via the trigeminal nerve, which is the same nerve that is responsible for facial sensations and pain. As a result, the brain interprets the signal as coming from the forehead, which is called “referred pain” because the origin of the pain is in a different location from where it is felt.


Theory #2

When a cold food or beverage is ingested, the anterior cerebral artery increases blood flow to the frontal and medial lobes in an attempt to “adapt” to the freeze. The increase in blood flow leads to an increase in artery size. The combined effects of these self-defense mechanisms is an increased intracranial pressure which may be interpreted by the brain as a headache or the notorious “brain freeze.”

17277-yes_hurts1What can be done to combat the ruthless pain of a brain freeze?

– Decreasing the rate of intake of the cold food or beverage would definitely help.

– If you are not willing to slow down your consumption rate, then placing your tongue on the roof of your mouth will also help.

– Another technique is to place your thumb or any other warm object on the roof of your mouth.

– Also, a warm cup of water will do the job quickly.


What do you think? Do you like this? How about a question for next week’s blog.

Sources used-