Up until now, motion sickness and cybersickness — a type of motion sickness that stems from exposure to virtual reality (VR) — have been considered different problems. However, research from University of Newcastle  Australia has revealed the two conditions share many of the same symptoms, including nausea, sweating, dizziness and fatigue.

Motion sickness is a common consequence of “sensory mismatch.” That occurs when what a person sees, feels and senses doesn’t match up. “The disconnect occurs between the eyes and the vestibular system, which controls the workings of the inner ear, overall balance and orientation of a person in a physical space,” Associate Professor Eugene Nalivaiko said. Because motion sickness does not involve only the eyes, research has shown that people who are blind can still experience “classic” motion sickness. “Until now, cybersickness has been thought to be a sub-type of motion sickness because it does not involve the vestibular system and is triggered only by visual stimuli, but our conclusion contradicts these previously published results.”

The researchers  studied the physiological responses to motion sickness and cybersickness in 30 young adult volunteers. Two different trials were separated by at least one week. One trial consisted of exposure to a vestibular stimulus: being blindfolded and riding a motorized rotating chair while tilting their heads at regular intervals. For the visual stimulus trial, the participants “rode” a VR rollercoaster. Both trials were designed to span a maximum of 15 minutes. Volunteers were instructed to continue for as long as they could tolerate uncomfortable symptoms. During both trials, the researchers measured the participants’ sweat rate through sensors placed on the skin of their foreheads. The volunteers completed questionnaires before and after the study, including a post-trial questionnaire that rated the severity of their discomfort.

“Out of the 30 young adult volunteers involved in the study, only one of the participants was able to complete the full 15 minutes of either trial, indicating that the majority of the group experienced advanced or severe motion sickness and cybersickness,” Nalivaiko said. “The clinical picture of both disorders is identical, and sensitivity to one condition predicts sensitivity to another.”

Due to an explosion of VR technology, cybersickness had suddenly become a significant obstacle for a majority of its users and the results could have practical implications for public safety. “Simple and inexpensive virtual reality technology could be used for pre-selection tests in professions where motion sickness may pose an occupational hazard, such as pilots, drivers or crane operators,” Nalivaiko said. Now that we can measure the severity of cybersickness, it has opened up the possibility of finding and eradicating the underlying causes.”

Source: University of Newcastle Australia