LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM – Researchers at the Imperial College of London (ICL) are developing an effective new treatment for motion sickness, which they say could become available over the counter sometime in the next five to ten years.
Instead of developing a pharmaceutical treatment for motion sickness and dizziness, researchers at ICL have instead focused on the effects of applying mild electrical currents to the scalp to stimulate certain regions of the brain to reduce symptoms.
In a research article published on September 4th in the scientific journal Neurology, ICL investigators showed that mild electrical current applied to the scalp resulted in a significant reduction in symptoms.
Not Well Understood
Surprisingly, the actual cause of motion sickness is still not completely understood. The prevailing theory among scientists is that our brains are receiving mixed or conflicting messages from the eyes and the inner ear during movement. These conflicting signals result in the symptoms we refer to as motion sickness.
Though no one is immune to feeling symptoms of motion sickness, approximately three in ten people are particularly sensitive and experience severe symptoms—including dizziness, nausea, headache, sweating, etc.
In their study, published in September in the scientific journal Neurology, researchers showed how mild electrical current applied to the scalp can significantly reduce symptoms of motion sickness.
Participants in the study wore electrodes on their head for approximately ten minutes while they sat in a motorized chair that simulated motions known to make people experience symptoms of nausea and motion sickness (as can be seen in the short video below).
Individuals wearing electrodes felt less nauseous during the experience and recovered more quickly.
Seeking Industry Partners
Researchers are already talking to industry partners to work on development of a device, including possible interest from the military.
Lead researcher, Dr. Qadeer Arshad, envisions the development of a device similar to a TENS machine that is used today for chronic pain or even possibly through a smartphone app.
“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” —Qadeer Arshad, Ph.D.
While some prospective users may be hesitant about receiving shocks to their brain to avoid symptoms of motion sickness, Dr. Arshad insists that the currents necessary to produce the desired results are very small and there is “no reason to expect any adverse effects from short term use”.
Dr. Arshad and colleagues are “confident” they will have some sort of fully developed OTC device within five to ten years.
Source: Imperial College of London.