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Everything there is to know about brain freeze, aka ‘sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia’

While it has happened to almost all of us — and more than once — there is a scientific reason behind it.

By: Lifestyle Desk | New Delhi |
October 24, 2019 9:21:34 am
brain freeze, what is brain freeze, indian express, indian express news When we consume a cold substance, we abruptly change the temperature at the back of our throat. (Source: Getty/Thinkstock)

You know that strange, familiar, throbbing sensation in your head? One that hits you all at once when you have consumed something cold? Like you have been smacked right in your face with a cold compress? Yes, yes, we can go on and you probably know by now that we are talking about the widely known phenomenon of ‘brain freeze’.

While it has happened to almost all of us — and more than once — there is a scientific reason behind it. In summers, especially, when we are downing slushies, smoothies and ice lollies, we get a ‘brain freeze’.  Well, our brain is not really freezing, but when we gulp down something real cold real fast, our body tells us to slow down and take it easy. In fact, there is a scientific name for it: sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia.

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So what really happens to us?

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When we consume a cold substance, we abruptly change the temperature at the back of our throat. There are two important arteries present there: the internal carotoid artery, which takes blood to the brain, and the anterior cerebral artery, from where the brain tissue starts.

Experts say that the brain per se doesn’t actually feel the pain. It’s the receptors in the outer covering of the brain — called meninges — which sense the pain. The two aforementioned arteries dilate and contract when anything cold hits, and it is this very sensation that the brain perceives as pain.

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What is the cure?

Don’t gulp down a cold drink all at once maybe? Take small sips/bites so you both savour it and prevent a sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia from happening. Also, you can try pressing your tongue to the roof of your mouth, or consume something that is slightly warmer so as to get instant relief.

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