Postural instability precedes motion sickness.

Stoffregen TA, Smart LJ Jr

Department of Psychology, University of Cincinnati, OH 45221-0376, USA.

We evaluated the hypothesis that postural instability precedes the onset of motion sickness. Subjects standing in a "moving room" were exposed to nearly global oscillating optical flow. In the experimental condition, the optical oscillations were a complex sum-of-sines between 0.1 and 0.3 Hz, with an excursion of 1.8 cm. This optical motion was of such low frequency and magnitude that it was sometimes not noticed by subjects. However, in two experiments, exposure to the moving room produced significant increases in scores on a standard motion sickness questionnaire. In addition, approximately half of subjects reported motion sickness. Analysis of postural motion during exposure to the moving room revealed increases in postural sway before the onset of subjective motion sickness symptoms. This confirms a key prediction of the postural instability theory of motion sickness.