What is ‘brain freeze’ and why does it hurt so much?

ice cream photo

Question from Verity Lavigne

Brain freeze is the really unpleasant stinging feeling in your head when you eat something very cold. It is caused by the narrowing of blood vessels.

Two really important sets of blood vessels run close to the roof of your mouth: the interior carotid artery, which feeds the whole brain, and the anterior cerebral artery, which supplies blood to the front of your brain. If you eat something cold really quickly, the temperature shock causes these blood vessels to narrow. To prevent a loss of blood to your head, they then quickly widen again, causing a sudden, painful increase in blood flow.

Answered by Laura Mears for Brain Dump in How It Works issue 103 

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