The Science of Avoiding Sphenopalatine Ganglioneuralgia

We've known of the hazards of sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia since early homo sapiens were forced by a giggling 6'4" 325 pound Neandertal to put a chunk of glacier in his or her mouth as part of a hazing ceremony and damn near die.* 

To this day brain freeze remains one of the great mysteries of life as well as a leading hazard to surviving childhood.  How can a society that successfully spent trillions of tax payer dollars to put men on the moon, built nuclear weapons so accurate they could give Khrushchev an hemorrhoidectomy without ruffling anyone else in the room, and create such deeply insightful cultural commentary as Mad Men and The Simpsons not come to terms with such basic human suffering as Brain Freeze?


Yes, you there in the back - did you say, "Don't put cold stuff in your mouth, especially in the back of your mouth?"

Ha, sir. Such primitive thinking is what holds society back from true scientific breakthrough.

Now comes a scientific explanation as to why sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia, aka Brain Freeze, happens, including a scientifically valid, expensively-researched cure.

Here's the science behind the all-to-common phenomena of sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia for those brave enough to risk a flight into the fog of scientific terminology:
* * * * *

Sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia happens when you gulp something really cold too quickly, and is your body's way of saying, "¿¡Hey, dummy, that's freaking cold!?," claims Deano Goodwhiskey, a psychiatrist at the acclaimed School of Medicalness at the renowned University of Northern South Dakota at Hoople.

"Sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia is really a type of headache that is rapid in onset, but rapidly resolved as well," he said. "Our mouths are highly vascularized, including the tongue -- that's why we take our temperatures there. But drinking a cold beverage fast doesn't give the mouth time to absorb the cold very well, which is why I take my rye neat."

"Here's how it happens: When you slurp a really cold drink or eat ice cream too fast you are rapidly changing the temperature in the back of the throat at the juncture of the internal carotoid artery, which feeds blood to the brain, and the anterior cerebral artery, which is where brain tissue starts in most people."

"One thing the brain doesn't like is for things to change, and sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia is a mechanism that does just that," Goodwhiskey said, further explaining "Science has known for at least thirty or forty years that the human body averages 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, 38 degrees Celsius and 431 degrees Kelvin, give or take a degree or two. Ice cream is less warm than that, and we're currently designing a grant application to fund a classic experiment to determine the true temperature of ice cream in degrees Fahrenheit, Celsius and that other one."

"The brain can't actually feel pain despite its billions of neurons," Goodwhiskey said, "but the pain associated with sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia is sensed by receptors in the outer covering of the brain called the meninges, where the two arteries meet. When the cold hits, it causes a dilation and contraction of these arteries and that's the sensation that the brain interprets as excruciating and crippling pain."

"Analyzing sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia may seem like silly science to some, Dr. Goodwhiskey continued, "but "it's helpful in earning lucrative government grants and fellowships. This is far superior employment compared to say, digging ditches for a living,*" he continued.

"We can't easily give people migraines or a cluster headache, but we can induce sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia with ease," he said. "Some people will do anything for the fifty bucks we pay for being test subjects, including the repeated gargling of ice cubes upon demand."

So I asked the doctor, "Is there a cure for the scourge of sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia?"

"Yes," says Goodwhiskey filled with a diffidence born of years of writing research grant applications concerning this vexing yet profitable problem. "Don't put cold stuff in your mouth, and especially" he said with a meaningful pause, "in the back of your mouth."
* * * * *

* There is reason to believe that Neandertals were homo phobic.***

** The subject of future research at the research labs and graduate school at the UNSD@H scheduled for the 2013-2014 academic year.

*** Sorry.


  1. Does Dr. Goodwhiskey know Peter Schikele (spelling may be off), the famous scholar of PDQ Bach, who is also a UNSD@H?

    1. Jeez, I hope not. What a pair.

      I did send a link to this piece to Schickele as a courtesy. Other than a long threatening letter from his attorneys, Dewey, Cheatham & Howe, not a peep.

      Thanks for the note. Best wishes.


  2. For readers unaware of Peter Schickele and his research into the immoral P.D.Q. Bach, the last and least child of Papa Bach, did you just fall off the turnip truck? Stop munching on turnips long enough to go to You Tube and do a search for P.D.Q. Bach. Then listen, preferably seated so you don't hurt yourself when you fall over laughing.


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