Why must a shooting pain so often accompany a delicious bite of ice cream? In their work to learn more about migraines, scientists may have figured it out, LiveScience reports. Using the previously established findings that migraine-sufferers have the double whammy of more frequent brain freeze, the researchers decided to try to learn about the trickier-to-study former by observing the latter. To do so, they had subjects drink cold water through a straw perched against the roofs of their mouths.
When subjects signaled the onset of pain, the researchers observed that the blood flow through a vessel behind the eyes, known as the anterior cerebral artery, increased. The pain disappeared when the artery constricted. The "freeze" may stem from the boosted pressure in the brain as blood rushes in, and could be a self-defense mechanism, the researchers say. The brain is "fairly sensitive to temperature," explains one, so the process of widening the vessels "might be moving warm blood inside tissue to make sure the brain stays warm." Drugs to help keep such vessels constricted could help fight migraines in the future. (Read more brain freeze stories.)