Solving life’s great mysteries

By: Health Local Staff Jun 18, 2012
Why we get brain freeze

From brain freeze to the contagious yawn, we've got the reasons for our bodies strange reactions.

Men, women, old, young, regardless of race, religion, country of origin, or socioeconomic background, there are some things that “plague” us all. And no, we aren’t talking about anything too major. It’s not cardiovascular disease or cancer or even the common cold. They’re the weird things that happen to us all that when they occur they make us stop and think for a moment. You may even find yourself thinking out loud during an occurrence, “huh, what the heck is that? Why does that happen?”

In this article you will learn the mystery behind:

• Why yawning is contagious
• Why we all get goose bumps
• Why we get brain freeze

Brain Freeze
This one tops the list because as we move from spring into summer, in an effort to cool down on those hot days and even hotter nights, most people reach for something, anything! Unable to eat your bowl of ice cream, or your frozen fruit bar, three or four bites in, there it is. Bang! Brain freeze! Whether you know the reason why it happens, will it alter how you eat or drink on those on sweltering hot days? Probably not!

Sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia, otherwise known as brain freeze, is the result of a sudden change in temperature when something hits the soft tissue in the roof your mouth. It’s the body’s natural response as the blood vessels quickly swell, in order to bring things back up to normal. As the blood vessels become inflamed, it sends a pain signal to the brain, which is your body’s way of telling your brain, “Houston, we have a problem!” In turn, the forehead braces itself for what it fears will be further pain, so it starts hurting as well. It’s neither serious nor is it cause for concern. However, some people do end up with a splitting headache afterward. Solution? You tell your dog to slow down when she eats her dinner; follow that advice.

Why is Yawning Contagious?
To understand this, you should probably first know why people yawn in the first place. Although you might think it is because you are tired and thus something that our bodies do just before we are ready to sleep, it’s actually the opposite. According to research at the University of Albany in New York State, yawning is the body’s way of cooling the brain so it will continue to stay alert. Maybe think of it as being similar to driving and with a fear you will fall asleep behind the wheel, you open the window. Cold air rushing in hits you and gives you a little blast of energy.

Their research further suggests that the reason yawning is contagious is that at the heart of it, humans are sympathetic creatures who rely on instinct. It’s not so much that a second yawner is mimicking the behavior, but rather that it’s something that takes us back to our hunter gatherer days and has remained hardwired into each of us. Think of it as a way to warn others in the clan of impending danger. If you are alert and your buddy is alert, together you are formidable. Both of you asleep, you can be ambushed. Consider yourself in good company as many mammals take part in this contagious ritual.

What are Goosebumps?
Goosebumps, also known as chill bumps, goose pimples and a host of other odd and nefarious sounding names, are an involuntary reaction on the dermis (skin) to lots of physical and emotion stimuli. Among them:

• Sudden cold
• Stress
• Fear
• Surprise
• Reminiscing
• Sexual arousal

You can no more control goose bumps than you can yawning when others yawn.

The Health Local Staff is a team of writers and experts dedicated to bringing you the latest health, nutrition and lifestyle information at