From sailboats to buses, motion sickness can strike on any form of transport and can turn a journey into a living hell. Fortunately, it appears it is possible to train one’s brain to become less susceptible to wooziness when on the move, according to a new study in the journal Applied Ergonomics.
Researchers from the University of Warwick have been grappling with the prospect of a major increase in motion sickness once driverless cars become the norm. It is expected that during the rush hour of the future, workers will use their commute to read and write emails, watch movies, and perform other screen-based tasks while being driven around by their robotic vehicles.
This, say the study authors, is likely to leave many feeling rather queasy and could impact the productivity of the workforce – particularly during the first few hours of the day.
To try and solve this impending problem, the team recruited 42 participants, who were either driven around in a car or placed in a driving simulator while reporting on their level of nausea. Each person was then asked to spend 15 minutes a day performing a range of visuospatial tasks for the next two weeks. Tasks included paper folding exercises and a mental rotation test, in which participants are shown a series of shapes and must deduce which are the same shape just rotated.
By the end of the two-week training period, participants’ visuospatial skills had improved by an average of 40 percent. More importantly, however, they experienced a 51 percent decrease in motion sickness when placed in the driving simulator again and a 58 percent decrease in sickness during on-road trials.
At present, the study authors are unsure as to how an improvement in visuospatial skill causes a reduction in travel sickness, yet they believe their approach can result in a more pleasant commute for the workers of the future.
“I hope that in the future we can optimise the training into a short, highly impactful method,” said study author Joseph Smyth in a statement. “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.”
“It's also very likely this method can be used in other domains such as sea-sickness for navy staff or cruise passengers.”