Why are some people lucky? Like seriously, after an unstoppable sipping of their favorite slurpee, why in the world won’t they experience the agonizing BRAIN FREEZE?!
Brain freeze remains a mysterious case even to the handful of scientists who have studied the phenomenon in some depth, like Jorge Serrador, an associate professor of physiology and pharmacology at Rutgers University.
In a study published in 2012, Serrador examined how blood flow in the brain is related to brain freeze, and he’s currently preparing to do a follow-up study on ice cream headaches.
Brain freeze really hasn’t been studied a lot so the mechanism remains unclear,” Serrador explained.
In Serrador’s study, 13 people induced brain freeze by rapidly drinking ice water through a straw. His research team found that just before participants reported experiencing pain, there was an increased blood flow to the anterior cerebral artery, which provides blood to the front of the brain behind the forehead. That’s where participants said it hurt.
Serrador’s theory of brain freeze was that the ice water was causing the arteries in the brain to expand, increasing warming blood flow, which in turn increased pressure in the brain. This pressure then triggered receptors on the outside of the brain that interpret the sensation as pain.
We’re actually going to be numbing some nerves and stuff to see if we can block the blood flow increase and if we can [block it], will people not develop brain freeze?” he said.
Serrador’s thinking is that the trigeminal nerve, which runs along the roof of the mouth, gets stimulated by the sudden influx of cold. It then misfires, causing the arteries to widen in the brain. But there could be other explanations, he said, and more research needs to be done before we can know for sure.
As for why some human beings never experienced brain freeze, Serrador was stumped.
There’s definitely some inter-individual variability in that brain freeze response. But I don’t know why some people don’t get it and some people do. It may be related to how reactive your nerves are. It may be related to anatomical placement. There are a ton of possibilities,” Serrador said.
Given what we know about how the phenomenon works, here are a few educated guesses. First, maybe some people eat and drink cold treats too slowly, allowing the tongue to warm it up before it hits the roof of the mouth. Second, maybe their brains are just wired differently that won’t register the increased blood flow in a way that triggers a pain response. Or, third, maybe the increased blood flow never even occur in their brain.
Hmmm… Why won’t we all try it then?! Let’s go hop to 7-Eleven, see if it works for us “brain freeze prone people”.
via Motherboard Vice