Science Screams for Ice Cream

May 3, 2012

Eva Gusnowski

As many people with migraines can attest to, having a gut-busting headache is not going to be the highlight of your day. New research is now using our good friend ice cream to study how migraines work.


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Many migraines are thought to be the result of increased cerebral artery blood flow (i.e. the arteries that flow up into your brain). Since the brain is an enclosed space, increased flow into this area could cause an increase in the pressure inside the skull, causing pain.

The “brain-freeze” phenomenon is essentially being used as a short-term way to study migraine development. In particular this new study, discussed at the 2012 Experimental Biology Conference, is investigating which arteries dilate in the brain during brain-freeze-pain, and then constrict when the pain subsides. They found a single artery in particular, who’s dilation/constriction coincided with pain development.


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To do this, volunteers were given ice water to sip with a straw directed against the roof of their mouths…the main culprit in the induction of brain freeze. An ultrasound machine was directed against the side of their heads to monitor blood flow in the brain when before, during and after pain development. They found one artery in particular, the anterior cerebral artery, which followed the pattern of pain.


science in seconds, eva gusnowski, science screams for ice cream

The reason this is interesting is that migraines and post-traumatic headaches may be follow a similar blood flow pattern. So using medications that block vasodilation (hopefully specifically in the brain), may provide a target for drugs in the future.

Because I’m a scientist, I like to think that everything I do is for science. So I’m going to say that when I eat ice cream and get brain freeze, that’s all for science too. Its almost the same thing…trust me, I’m a scientist.



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