Motion sickness could be avoided via a zap to the scalp

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A test subject receives the electrode treatment(Credit: Imperial College London)

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While many of us may have experienced a bit of queasiness on unusually rough flights or boat trips, some people suffer from extreme motion sickness even under relatively calm conditions. Although medication can help, it also causes side effects such as drowsiness. In a few years, however, there may be a preferable alternative ... which users would stick to their head.

Led by Dr. Qadeer Arshad, a team of scientists at Imperial College London applied electrodes to the scalps of volunteers for a period of 10 minutes. According to the researchers, the mild electrical current emitted by those electrodes dampened responses in an area of the subjects' brains which is responsible for processing motion signals.

The volunteers were subsequently placed in a motorized chair (seen above), that rotated and tilted to simulate the types of movements that typically cause motion sickness. When the results were compared to chair-rides taken before the electrode treatment, it was found that test subjects experienced significantly less nausea and quicker recovery times.

"We are really excited about the potential of this new treatment to provide an effective measure to prevent motion sickness with no apparent side effects," says Prof. Michael Gresty, who collaborated on the study. "The benefits that we saw are very close to the effects we see with the best travel sickness medications available."

It is hoped that within five to ten years, the technology might be available in the form of a TENS-like device that people could buy at a drug store. It would incorporate electrodes that the user would apply to their scalp for a short period of time before traveling, and could even be plugged into the headphone jack of their smartphone, using its processing power and battery.

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