Health & Wellbeing

"Brain training" exercises shown to lessen motion sickness

"Brain training" exercises sho...
The 3D driving simulator used in the study
The 3D driving simulator used in the study
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Test subjects are taken on an "on the road" car ride
Test subjects are taken on an "on the road" car ride
The 3D driving simulator used in the study
The 3D driving simulator used in the study

Whether it occurs in a car, plane, boat or VR environment, motion sickness is no fun. According to new research, though, it's possible for people to "train their brain" out of the condition, potentially reducing the symptoms by more than half.

Conducted at Britain's University of Warwick, the recent study involved 42 test subjects, both male and female. Each person was initially taken for a virtual car ride in a lab-based 3D simulator, and for an actual ride in a vehicle on the road.

In both cases, they were passengers. This arrangement was intended to simulate being in a self-driving car – it is thought that motion sickness might be worse in such vehicles, as passengers will frequently take their eyes off the road to read, send texts, or perform other non-driving activities.

Test subjects are taken on an "on the road" car ride
Test subjects are taken on an "on the road" car ride

During the rides, the participants rated their degree of motion sickness. Then for the following two weeks, they were split into two groups.

One group simply took a break for that period, while members of the other group performed 15-minute pen-and-paper visuospatial training exercises every day. "Visuospatial" refers to the visual perception of the spatial relationship of objects. The exercises included tasks such as looking at a row of diagrams of boxes linked together in different configurations, and determining which one was the original configuration, simply shown from a different angle.

At the end of the two weeks, all of the test subjects were taken for another couple of rides. While there was little change in the control group, members of the "brain trained" group reported 51 percent less motion sickness in the simulator, and 58 percent less on the road.

"Imagine if when someone is waiting for a test-drive in a new autonomous vehicle they could sit in the showroom and do some 'brain training puzzles' on a tablet before going out in the car, therefore reducing their risk of sickness," says team member Dr. Joseph Smyth. "It’s also very likely this method can be used in other domains such as sea-sickness for navy staff or cruise passengers. We are particularly excited about applying this new finding to virtual reality headset use."

The research is described in a paper that was recently published in the journal Applied Ergonomics.

Source: WMG, University of Warwick

Is it the brain training exercises in particular, or is it something other than thinking about being motion sick? Hawthorne effect? It might have been interesting to see what happened with a cross-over experiment where the control group did exercises for another two weeks while the first experimental group just sat around.
Yes, I'd be really interested for the VR side of it. I love VR, but I'm sensitive to motion sickness.