The science behind car sickness

When I sit in front I don’t suffer

Car sickness is a type of motion sickness or kinetosis. It was described by Hippocrates, a Greek physician, who wrote:

“Sailing on the sea proves that motion disorders the body.”

People suffer from car sickness because the brain receives discrepant information. The brain needs time to make a compromise between what the eyes sees and what the body feels. For example, when we are in car and we are reading, our eyes see the pages in the book. The normal experience of reading is in a still position, on the couch or in bed, not in movement. But our body feels the movement and the brain needs time to adapt to the unexpected environment. This is also the reason why drivers don’t suffer: the eyes see movement and the body feels movement. There is no conflicting information.

Women are more susceptible to motion sickness than men, especially during menstruation and pregnancy, probably because of hormones changes.

Monozygotic twins suffer for car sickness 2.5 times more than dizygotic ones. Thus, genetics could be involved in this malaise.

An issue has arisen regarding self-driving cars. While self-driving cars can enhance comfort and productivity of drivers, they can induce car sickness. Diels and collaborators suggested to consider some basic perceptual mechanisms in the design process to avoid o limit car sickness.

What can you do to prevent car sickness?

Attenuating visual input, avoid reading or watching videos or playing with your smartphones. Sit in the front seat and looking in the travel’s direction. Kato and Kitazaki also proposed to control the stimulation of visual organs by presenting different visual information on a display in front of the passenger.

References:

Bakwin, “Car‐sickness in Twins”, (1971), https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1469-8749.1971.tb03267.x

Diels et al., “Self-driving carsickness”, (2016), https://doi.org/10.1016/j.apergo.2015.09.009

Leung and Hon, “Motion sickness: an overview”, (2018), https://doi.org/10.7573/dic.2019-9-4

Kato and Kitazaki, “A Study for Understanding Carsickness Based on the Sensory Conflict Theory”, (2006), https://doi.org/10.4271/2006-01-0096

Published by Martina Bodner

Biotechnologist, PhD Candidate in Food Chemistry, Science Teacher, STEM and autism advocate, mother.

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