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What causes Ice-cream headaches?

T. Denton Gould tgould at FALCON.LHUP.EDU
Tue Feb 20 15:38:36 EST 1996

Jonathan is right, the phrenic does pass relatively close to the 
esophagus on it's way to the diaphragm.  But this doesn't explain to me 
how a chilled peripheral nerve will cause a pain sensation, similar to a 
headache, in the cns, especially in the occipial region.  


- T. Denton Gould                             e-mail: tgould at falcon.lhup.edu -  
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C.S. Sherrington

On Tue, 20 Feb 1996, Jonathan David Byrd wrote:

> In <4g8qrl$9cq at hunter.premier.net> cogito at premier.net writes:
> >On 16 Feb 1996 15:56:21 GMT, cweaver at bu.edu (Charles Weaver) wrote:
> >>It is not! the phrenic nerve (this is the nerve that goes to the diapharam)
> >>unless you are getting hichoughs from eating icecream.  I always assumed it
> >>was a vascular thing.....the cold in the esophagus cools blood in the carotid
> >>artery and then the coold somehow causes spasm in the arterys in the brain
> >>leading to meningeal irritation.......sound good......this is of course
> >>totally speculative.....
> >>
> >>
> >>Anyone else have a thought???
> 	Your reasoning is flawed.  I know the phrenic goes to the diaphragm
> but that does not mean that it can't be the culprit whether it is actually
> the phrenic nerve or not that is being chilled.  But one of the spinal
> nerves passes close to the esophagus and I have heard that this is the
> culprit.  By your reasoning, people who live in cold environs should be
> experiencing massive headaches from their chilled blood, that we know is not
> the case.  From my studies of arterial physiology, there is nothing to
> suggest that cold would cause spasms, especially since I have heard of no
> way for smooth muscle to respond to cold by spasms.  In addition, it has
> been my observation that ice cream headaches effect the same area of the
> brain everytime which is generally in the posterior lateral frontal cortex.
> Thus implicating nerves in pain because arterial culprits could effect many
> areas of the brain if the blood were cooling.
> Yours truly,
> Jonathan Byrd
> Dept. of Neuroscience
> UofRocehster

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