Motion sickness could potentially be your brain responding to “poison”, according to Trinity Professor Luke O’Neill.
Anyone who has taken a long journey before has either had motion sickness themselves or been with someone with motion sickness.
Prof O’Neill said on Show Me the Science that motion sickness is caused by “a disconnect between the actual and expected motion”.
“If you're sitting in a car and you're looking at your lap or looking at the driver while the car is moving around, your eyes are saying ‘I'm sitting still’ but your ears are saying, 'There’s something moving’,” he said.
“We sense movements in the inner ear it gives you a sense of where you are and your balance.
“If you're being knocked around but your eyes are saying we’re not moving, you get motion sickness.”
Beyond wanting to solve the symptoms of nausea, headaches and cold sweats, Prof O’Neill said there are several serious reasons motion sickness needs to be cured.
“The more serious side of motion sickness is to do with virtual reality headsets,” he said.
“We're entering into a world of virtual reality and a huge problem is feeling sick.
“The VR headset is a disconnect; you're pretty still but you're seeing things moving.
“Your eyes now are seeing movement and yet your ear is not moving and that disconnect is why they think nausea is happening.
“If VR is to make it, the issue of motion sickness has to be addressed,” he said.
Addressing motion sickness is also important if we want to explore space, according to Prof O’Neill.
He said some research, which “may or may not be true” has suggested motion sickness happens when your brain thinks you’re hallucinating.
“The hallucination process can involve sensory overload and senses getting mixed up,” he explained.
“When you’re motion sick, your brain thinks you're hallucinating, and hallucinations are normally caused by some poison you ingest.
“This isn’t fully convincing as an explanation but it’s reasonable.”
Cures to motion sickness
Researchers have also found that a protein called VGLUT2 could also cause motion sickness.
“It’s a special protein in your brain that seems to sense the disturbance in your brain and cause nausea,” Prof O’Neill said.
“If you can target those neurons, you might stop all the motion sickness.”
Tests on mice, who also have this protein and experience motion sickness, have shown breeding VGLUT2 out of them prevents motion sickness.