Neural mechanisms of motion sickness

J Med Invest. 2001 Feb;48(1-2):44-59.


Three kinds of neurotransmitters: histamine, acetylcholine and noradrenaline, play important roles in the neural processes of motion sickness, because antihistamines, scopolamine and amphetamine are effective in preventing motion sickness. Histamine H1-receptors are involved in the development of the symptoms and signs of motion sickness, including emesis. On provocative motion stimuli, a neural mismatch signal activates the histaminergic neuron system in the hypothalamus, and the histaminergic descending impulse stimulates H1-receptors in the emetic center of the brainstem. The histaminergic input to the emetic center through H1-receptors is independent of dopamine D2-receptors in the chemoreceptor trigger zone in the area postrema and serotonin 5HT3-receptors in the visceral afferent, which are also involved in the emetic reflex. Antihistamines block emetic H1-receptors to prevent motion sickness. Scopolamine prevents motion sickness by modifying the neural store to reduce the neural mismatch signal and by facilitating the adaptation/habituation processes. The noradrenergic neuron system in the locus coeruleus is suppressed by the neural mismatch signal. Amphetamine antagonizes mismatch-induced suppression of noradrenergic neural transmission, resulting in preventing motion sickness.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Disease Susceptibility
  • Humans
  • Motion Sickness / etiology
  • Motion Sickness / metabolism*
  • Motion Sickness / prevention & control
  • Motion Sickness / therapy
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*