Electric current may help in easing the symptoms of travel sickness

According to a team of scientists at the Imperial College London, electricity can stimulate parts of our brain and alleviate the symptoms of travel sickness.

The scientists said that preliminary trials conducted on 20 individuals have revealed that the method might have effects similar to that of drugs, but doesn’t cause drowsiness. Mild electrical current, when applied to our brain, interferes with messages sent by the part of the ear responsible for controlling balance.

Other scientists, however, are currently reacting skeptically as they are waiting for larger trials to back the findings of this small trial up.

People suffer from travel sickness or motion sickness when they are on the go; it might occur during a trip by car, a boat ride or a flight. It is believed that motion sickness taken place due to mixed messages emerging from our eyes and ears. Such messages result in confusion in our brain about events taking place around us and eventually lead to headaches and nausea.

Dr. Qadeer Arshad, a member of Imperial’s movement and balance group, said that people with damaged inner ear no longer experienced motion sickness. So, the research team tried to manipulate the part of the brain responsible for interpreting messages emerging from the balance organs of the ear using “transcranial direct current stimulation”, while the participants were made to experience nausea.

All the volunteers were made to sit on a chunder chair; for those who don’t know: chunder chairs are chairs that spin people sitting on them round at a particular angle. Due to its spinning movement, people sitting on a chunder chair are guaranteed to experience motion sickness just after spending 5 minutes on it. It was also found that sitting on these chairs for a longer duration can leave people physically sick.


Each of the 20 participants was made to have an initial go. After an hour, low intensity electrical currents were passed through the scalp of 50% of them with an aim to alter their brain activities. The remaining volunteers received a dummy treatment.

The ones receiving the dummy treatment experienced nausea 57 seconds earlier and on average, motion sickness took an additional 207 seconds to appear in people receiving the stimulation. These results showed that stimulation leads to improvement in recovery times.