Chill Okay, Slurpees aren't exactly health food. But should the warning on the cup that the sweet slush might cause brain freeze (also known as ice cream headache) make us hang up our spoon-straws?

Sweet agony 7-Eleven's been touting its signature drink's impact for years. In 1993 the company registered the term "brainfreeze" to describe "the painful joy of drinking a frozen Slurpee beverage." An estimated one-third of the healthy population gets brain freeze from icy confections. Those prone to migraines are particularly susceptible.

Cool heads How brain freeze works isn't clear. Long-standing theory held that nerves in your palate respond to cold by sending a "warm up!" signal to blood vessels in your head, prompting them to dilate suddenly. But David Roby, a neurologist and headache expert at Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia, assigns blame instead to some "functional abnormality in the regulation of sensation in the head and neck" that creates an "unusually exaggerated response to stimulus." The exquisite excruciation usually passes within seconds and causes no physical damage.

Cold comfort You can try to lick brain freeze by pressing something warm -- your tongue, your thumb, or a sip of warm water -- against the roof of your mouth. Or try an ounce of prevention. Research conducted by a 13-year-old Canadian girl and published in 2002 in the British Medical Journal (in its traditionally light-hearted December issue) demonstrated that people who ate their ice cream slowly were less likely to experience brain freeze than those who wolfed it down.

-- Jennifer Huget