Researchers from Imperial College London have developed a way to potentially alleviate sea sickness and other kinds of motion nausea. Published in the scientific journal Neurology, the research explains how a small electric current sent through the scalp can help reduce the possibility of experiencing nausea when a long car or boat ride is ahead, and the technology may eventually be implemented in a simple smartphone app.
The study states that roughly three in ten people experience overwhelming motion-sickness symptoms, such as severe nausea, dizziness, and cold sweats, among others. It is still unknown exactly what causes motion-sickness, but the most commonly accepted theory in the scientific community says it stems from confusing messages received by our brains from our ears and eyes when we are moving in some sort of vehicle. This new form of treatment helps lower the impact of these confusing inputs our brain’s perceive and thus eases the symptoms of motion-sickness.
“We are confident that within five to ten years people will be able to walk into the chemist and buy an anti-seasickness device. It may be something like a tens machine that is used for back pain,” expressed Dr Qadeer Arshad from the Department of Medicine at Imperial College London, who led the research.
The researchers even think the treatment will find its way to smartphones, utilizing a certain type of headset with small electrodes that could carry the electrical current to the users scalp.
“We hope it might even integrate with a mobile phone, which would be able to deliver the small amount of electricity required via the headphone jack. In either case, you would temporarily attach small electrodes to your scalp before travelling on a cross channel ferry, for example,” said Arshad.
During the study, volunteers wore electrodes on their heads for around 10 minutes before getting in a motorised tilting and rotating chair-like mechanism, which simulates the motions that commonly induce nausea. Researchers noted that after the treatment, participants were less likely to feel sick and recovered more swiftly.
There are already some treatments available for motion-sickness in tablet-form, however they have been known to make people drowsy, which is obviously a dangerous side effect since people typically ingest them before driving. This new method doesn’t seem to have that downside, so the problem of motion-sickness may very well be completely eliminated within five to ten years, according to the researchers.