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Causes of brain freeze, feet falling asleep, different taste perceptions

By Hannah Daley

INDEPENDENT EDITOR

What is physically happening when we get a “brain freeze?”

  According to wisegeek.com, researchers suggest that the excruciating headache people experience while eating or drinking something cold on a warm day results from the freezing of a cluster of nerves above the palate and a sudden influx of warm blood to the brain.

  The actual nerve the food or drink affects is the sphenopalatine nerve, which is extremely sensitive to abrupt changes in temperature. When the cold substance hits the roof of the mouth, this nerve sends a warning to the other nerves in the cluster so that the brain can prepare itself to expect a “major freeze.”

  One’s brain doesn’t actually freeze; however, the blood vessels surrounding the brain shrink as a reaction to the cold stimuli.

  This then results in a pounding headache due to pain receptors, but placing the tongue on the roof of the mouth to warm the palate can reduce the duration of this sensation, which usually lasts about 30 seconds.

Why do our feet fall asleep, and what is physically happening that gives us that tingling sensation?

  Paresthesia is the sensation that occurs when one’s foot “falls asleep,” according to reference.com.

  The sensation is caused by putting pressure on sensory nerves, which reduces blood supply to the local area and cuts off communication between the brain and nerves of the limb, causing numbness in the skin.

  After feeling numbness, the uncomfortable tingling and prickling sensation will occur; however, once pressure on the limb is released, nerve communication to the brain restores, and the sensation will subside.

Why do some foods taste gross to us while they may taste delicious to others?

  According to ilovebacteria.com, the more taste buds one has, the more intensely he/she perceives the tastes, especially bitter ones.

  People who are sensitive to strong flavors are called “supertasters” and can have up to twice as many taste buds as the others.

  While 25 percent of people are supertasters, 25 percent are non-tasters and 50 percent are medium tasters.

  Although many believe that taste is only dependent on their taste buds, it also depends on smell and how the brain reads signals from the tongue.

  The ability to smell and taste relies on about 1000 genes, and scientists recently discovered that about 50 of these genes are only active in some people, causing some to like a specific food while it may make others want to vomit.

  Everyone has different genes that switch on and off; therefore, he/she has different receptors for different flavors.

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Author: The Independent

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