Research: Electrical stimulation fights motion sickness


A group of scientists at Imperial College in London say that electric current can decrease the chances of motion sickness by exciting portions of the brain.

The research of using electrical stimulations to fight motion sickness is on its early stage and it has only been conducted on 20 people. However, results seem to suggest that this method has a similar effect as drugs – in fact it has a better effect because it does not cause drowsiness. The study suggests that the electrical impulses get in between messages about the human balance arriving from the ear and the brain.

Motion sickness is caused by mixed signals generated by the ears and the eyes, causing the brain to end up in a confused state and eventually ends in headaches and nausea. It can be caused by any form of motion – be it land, water or air travel.

Scientists state that people who have damaged ear or eyesight usually do not get motion sickness.  Based on this finding the group of researchers created a simulated electrical interference, to influence the brain parts which interpret signals from other body parts like the ear.

The procedure was conducted on 20 subjects while they were made to feel nauseated, by sitting on the ‘CHUNDER CHAIR’, a name given by researchers to a sofa like machine that spins and twists the subjects at any angle.

The researchers are certain that the device could make anyone feel sick within the duration of 5 minutes.

The subjects were made to sit on the machine for upto an hour until they were physically quite sick as one participant informed. 10 of the 20 participants were given moderate amount of electrical currents, which altered their brain activity – meanwhile the other half was given a dummy cure. The researchers noted that the electrical stimulation delayed motion sickness by 3 minutes and 27 seconds on a standard.

Meanwhile, the group given the placebo treatment, felt nauseate  57 seconds earlier on an average, in their second session as one attack of motion sickness makes you helpless against the second attack.

Many experts believe that more research needs to be conducted on a larger group of human subjects.