Brain Freeze

A model wears a creation part of the Krizia Spring/Summer 2010 fashion collection, presented in Milan, Italy, Thursday, Sept. 24, 2009.
AP Photo/Alberto Pellaschiar
If you've ever gobbled down a bowl of ice cream, you probably know what an "ice cream headache" feels like. But, what is the science behind the "brain freeze"?

One 13-year-old Canadian was curious enough about "ice cream headaches" that she conducted her own study on it, and she got the results published in a major international medical journal.

Maya Kaczorowski visited The Early Show to discuss her study published in the British Medical Journal called, "Ice cream Evoked Headaches (ICE-H) Study: Randomized Trial of Accelerated Versus Cautious Ice Cream Eating Regimen."

Kaczorowski says she conducted the study because, "I really like ice cream and I occasionally get ice cream headaches."

As a part of her study, Maya decided to conduct a random control trial of 145 students at Dalewood Middle School in Hamilton as a project for her science class. She received some help from her father, Dr. Janusz Kaczorowski, an associate professor with the Department of Family Medicine at McMaster University.

Half of the children were instructed to eat 100 milliliters of vanilla ice cream in less than five seconds. The other half were told to eat the same amount (the equivalent of about two scoops) so that some ice cream was still left in the bowl after 30 seconds. The kids were then told to report whether they developed a headache.

The findings suggest that you should eat ice cream slowly: 27 percent of students in the "accelerated eating group" reported ice-cream headache, compared with only 13 percent in the "cautious eating group," the study says.

Of the 29 headaches reported, 59 percent lasted less than 10 seconds.

Kaczorowski said the headache sensation is caused by the ice cream touching the roof of a person's mouth — chilling a nerve in the mouth that "chills" the brain — when one eats ice cream quickly. It is more likely to happen than when eating slowly.

The Early Show decided to conduct an informal test on Kaczorowski's theory. The Early Show's Tracy Smith and Harry Smith ate as much vanilla ice cream in 5 seconds as they could. Tracy Smith said she had no headache. Harry Smith said, "I didn't eat fast enough, but it's good ice cream."