Pathophysiology and Treatment of Motion Sickness

John F. Golding; Michael A. Gresty


Curr Opin Neurol. 2015;28(1):83-88. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


Purpose of review Motion sickness remains bothersome in conventional transport and is an emerging hazard in visual information technologies. Treatment remains unsatisfactory but advances in brain imaging, neurophysiology, and neuropharmacology may provide insights into more effective drug and behavioural management. We review these major developments.

Recent findings Recent progress has been in identifying brain mechanisms and loci associated with motion sickness and nausea per se. The techniques have included conventional neurophysiology, pathway mapping, and functional MRI, implicating multiple brain regions including cortex, brainstem, and cerebellum. Understanding of the environmental and behavioural conditions provocative of and protective against motion sickness and how vestibular disease may sensitize to motion sickness has increased. The problem of nauseogenic information technology has emerged as a target for research, motivated by its ubiquitous applications. Increased understanding of the neurophysiology and brain regions associated with motion sickness may provide for more effective medication in the future. However, the polysymptomatic nature of motion sickness, high interindividual variability, and the extensive brain regions involved may preclude a single, decisive treatment.

Summary Motion sickness is an emerging hazard in information technologies. Adaptation remains the most effective countermeasure together with established medications, notably scopolamine and antihistamines. Neuropharmacological investigations may provide more effective medication in the foreseeable future.


A resurgence of interest in motion sickness in recent years has been attributable to the use of nauseogenic visual displays and realization of the involvement of the vestibular system, the key mechanism in motion sickness, with clinical disorders including migraine. Nonetheless, characteristic of the history of motion sickness studies, progress has been slow. Some of the central neuronal pathways involved in processing of provocative stimuli have been identified. There is greater understanding of the environmental and behavioural circumstances and medical conditions that modulate motion sickness, but little advance in treatments.