'Ice Cream Headaches' Might Offer Clues to Migraines 04/23/12
SUNDAY, April 22 (HealthDay News) -- That "brain freeze"
headache you experience when eating ice cream or other cold foods
may be caused by a sudden change in brain blood flow, researchers
What's more, the new research might point to targets to treat
other, more troubling forms of headache such as migraine, the U.S.
In the study, the scientists monitored brain blood flow in 13
healthy adults as they sipped ice water through a straw pressed
against the upper palate so as to trigger "brain freeze."
The results suggest that these transient headaches are triggered
by a sudden increase in blood flow in the brain's anterior cerebral
artery. Brain freeze disappears again when this artery constricts,
the study found.
The findings, to be presented Sunday at the Experimental Biology
meeting in San Francisco, may help lead to new treatments for other
types of headaches, the researchers said. Experimental Biology
brings together researchers from six scientific societies.
The rapid dilation and then quick constriction of the anterior
cerebral artery may be a type of self-defense for the brain,
explained study leader Jorge Serrador of Harvard Medical School and
the War Related Illness and Injury Study Center of the Veterans
Affairs New Jersey Health Care System.
"The brain is one of the relatively important organs in the body, and it needs to be working all the time. It's fairly sensitive to temperature, so vasodilation [expansion of blood vessels] might be moving warm blood inside tissue to make sure the brain stays warm," Serrador noted in an American Physiological Society news release.
He explained that the skull is a closed structure and the sudden
rush of blood could therefore boost pressure and cause pain. The
subsequent constriction of the artery may also be a way to reduce
pressure in the brain before it reaches dangerous levels.
Brain blood flow changes similar to those seen in brain freeze
could be associated with migraines and other types of headaches,
Serrador said. If further research confirms that this is the case,
then finding ways to control brain blood flow could offer new
treatments for headaches, he said.
Data and conclusions presented at scientific meetings should be
considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical
The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about
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