Mount Sinai Human Balance Laboratory

Treatment of motion sickness

Motion sickness during transport occurs daily and is a significant public health problem that affects a large number of people. Motion sickness symptoms are the reaction of autonomic system to the visual and vestibular (head rotation) disturbances produced by transportation carriers. Motion sickness is usually treated with behavioral and pharmaceutical approaches. Behavioral therapy reduces motion sickness sensitivity by exposing subjects to stimuli that had caused stressful motion sickness. Over time, subjects become habituated and sensitivity decreases. While effective in reducing motion sickness sensitivity, this approach is physically and mentally traumatic for individuals. The pharmaceutical approach is primarily to suppress the symptoms and to provide temporary relief. To date, there is otherwise no approach that reduces sensitivity to motion sickness in a non-traumatic way for long periods.

Studies have shown that sensitivity to motion is directly related to a part of the brain that responds to the motion. We have shown that motion sickness can be reduced if the duration of the response is shortened by exposure to a mismatch of visual and vestibular stimuli. This treatment paradigm is less stressful than the usual behavioral treatment and the effect of improvement can last for years and beyond (Dai et al 2011).

We provide motion-susceptible people with the intervention. It consists of 40 minutes of visual-vestibular interaction each day for consecutive 5 days and the strength of the stimuli will be progressively increased to a maximum tolerance level. From our experience, this intervention is extremely effective for those who have car/bus/airplane/escalator sickness.

For details about the treatment, please refer to “Prolonged reduction of motion sickness sensitivity by visual-vestibular interaction” by Dai et al. 2011