'Brain freeze' is a nearly universal experience—almost everyone has felt the near-instantaneous headache brought on by a bite of ice cream or slurp of ice-cold soda on the upper palate. However, scientists are still at a loss to explain this phenomenon.
Since migraine sufferers are more likely to experience brain freeze than people who don't have this often-debilitating condition, brain freeze may share a common mechanism with other types of headaches, including those brought on by the trauma of blast-related combat injuries in soldiers. One possible link between brain freeze and other headache types is local changes in brain blood flow.
In a new study, Melissa Mary Blatt, Michael Falvo, and Jessica Jasien of the Department of Veterans Affairs New Jersey Health Care System, Brian Deegan and Gearold O Laighin of the National University of Ireland Galway, and Jorge Serrador of Harvard Medical School and the War Related Illness and Injury Study Center of the Veterans Affairs New Jersey Health Care System use brain freeze as a proxy for other types of headaches. By bringing on brain freeze in the lab in volunteers and studying blood flow in their brains, the researchers show that the sudden headache seems to be triggered by an abrupt increase in blood flow in the anterior cerebral artery and disappears when this artery constricts. The findings could eventually lead to new treatments for a variety of different headache types.
An abstract of their study entitled, "Cerebral Vascular Blood Flow Changes During 'Brain Freeze,'" will be discussed at the meeting Experimental Biology 2012 being held April 21-25 at the San Diego Convention Center. The abstract is sponsored by the American Physiological Society (APS), one of six scientific societies sponsoring the conference, which last year attracted some 14,000 attendees.
Bringing on Brain Freeze
According to study leader Serrador, previous studies meant to assess what physiological changes might prompt headaches have mainly relied on various drugs, or brought in patients already in the throes of a migraine to the lab. However, both methods have their limitations. Pharmacological agents can induce other effects that can make research results misleading, he says, and since researchers can't wait for migraine sufferers to experience a migraine in the lab, those studies miss the crucial period of headache formation that occurs sometimes hours before scientists were able to study these patients.
To induce headache inside the lab and study it from start to finish, Serrador explains, brain freeze is a perfect fit. It's easy to bring on and resolves quickly without expensive or complicated equipment or drugs.
In this study, Serrador and his colleague recruited 13 healthy adults. The researchers monitored the volunteers' blood flow in several brain arteries using transcranial Doppler while they first sipped ice water with the straw pressed against their upper palate—ideal conditions for bringing on brain freeze—and then while sipping the same amount of water at room temperature. The volunteers raised their hand once they felt the pain of a brain freeze, then raised it again once the pain dissipated. Findings showed that one particular artery, called the anterior cerebral artery, dilated rapidly and flooded the brain with blood in conjunction to when the volunteers felt pain. Soon after this dilation occurred, the same vessel constricted as the volunteers' pain receded.
Changing the Course of Headaches
Serrador and his colleagues speculate that the dilation, then quick constriction, may be a type of self-defense for the brain. "The brain is one of the relatively important organs in the body, and it needs to be working all the time," he explains. "It's fairly sensitive to temperature, so vasodilation might be moving warm blood inside tissue to make sure the brain stays warm." But because the skull is a closed structure, Serrador adds, the sudden influx of blood could raise pressure and induce pain. The following vasoconstriction may be a way to bring pressure down in the brain before it reaches dangerous levels.
He notes that similar alterations in blood flow could be at work in migraines, posttraumatic headaches, and other headache types. If further research confirms these suspicions, then finding ways to control blood flow could offer new treatments for these conditions. Drugs that block sudden vasodilation or target channels involved specifically in the vasodilation of headaches could be one way of changing headaches' course.
About Experimental Biology 2012
Six scientific societies will hold their joint scientific sessions and annual meetings, known as Experimental Biology, from April 21-25, 2012 in San Diego. This meeting brings together the leading researchers from a broad array of life science disciplines. The societies include the American Association of Anatomists (AAA), American Physiological Society (APS), American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB), American Society for Investigative Pathology (ASIP), American Society for Nutrition (ASN), and American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics (ASPET). More information about the meeting can be found online at http://bit.ly/ymb7av.
About the American Physiological Society (APS)
The American Physiological Society (APS) is a nonprofit organization devoted to fostering education, scientific research, and dissemination of information in the physiological sciences. The Society was founded in 1887 and today has more than 10,500 members. APS publishes 13 scholarly, peer-reviewed journals covering specialized aspects of physiology. Eleven of the journals are published monthly.
Donna Krupa | EurekAlert!
New method uses just a drop of blood to monitor lung cancer treatment
19.10.2018 | Osaka University
Photoactive bacteria bait may help in fight against MRSA infections
12.10.2018 | Purdue University
Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI-P) in Mainz (Germany) together with scientists from Dresden, Leipzig, Sofia (Bulgaria) and Madrid (Spain) have now developed and characterized a novel, metal-organic material which displays electrical properties mimicking those of highly crystalline silicon. The material which can easily be fabricated at room temperature could serve as a replacement for expensive conventional inorganic materials used in optoelectronics.
Silicon, a so called semiconductor, is currently widely employed for the development of components such as solar cells, LEDs or computer chips. High purity...
Augsburg chemists present a new technology for compressing, storing and transporting highly volatile gases in porous frameworks/New prospects for gas-powered vehicles
Storage of highly volatile gases has always been a major technological challenge, not least for use in the automotive sector, for, for example, methane or...
When we put water in a freezer, water molecules crystallize and form ice. This change from one phase of matter to another is called a phase transition. While this transition, and countless others that occur in nature, typically takes place at the same fixed conditions, such as the freezing point, one can ask how it can be influenced in a controlled way.
We are all familiar with such control of the freezing transition, as it is an essential ingredient in the art of making a sorbet or a slushy. To make a cold...
Thin organic layers provide machines and equipment with new functions. They enable, for example, tiny energy recuperators. In future, these will be installed...
Das Zusammenspiel aus Struktur und Dynamik bestimmt die Funktion von Proteinen, den molekularen Werkzeugen der Zelle. Durch Fortschritte in der...
17.10.2018 | Event News
16.10.2018 | Event News
02.10.2018 | Event News
19.10.2018 | Life Sciences
19.10.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
19.10.2018 | Trade Fair News