Space Motion Sickness: Incidence, Etiology, and Countermeasures

Auton Neurosci. 2006 Oct 30;129(1-2):77-9. doi: 10.1016/j.autneu.2006.07.014. Epub 2006 Aug 28.


Space motion sickness is experienced by 60% to 80% of space travelers during their first 2 to 3 days in microgravity and by a similar proportion during their first few days after return to Earth. Space motion sickness symptoms are similar to those in other forms of motion sickness; they include: pallor, increased body warmth, cold sweating, malaise, loss of appetite, nausea, fatigue, vomiting, and anorexia. These are important because they may affect the operational performance of astronauts. Two hypotheses have been proposed to explain space motion sickness: the fluid shift hypothesis and the sensory conflict hypothesis. The fluid shift hypothesis suggests that space motion sickness results from the cranial shifting of body fluids resulting from the loss of hydrostatic pressure gradients in the lower body when entering microgravity. The cranial fluid shifts lead to visible puffiness in the face, and are thought to increase the intracranial pressure, the cerebrospinal-fluid pressure or the inner ear fluid pressures, altering the response properties of the vestibular receptors and inducing space motion sickness. The sensory conflict hypothesis suggests that loss of tilt-related otolith signals upon entry into microgravity causes a conflict between actual and anticipated signals from sense organs subserving spatial orientation. Such sensory conflicts are thought to induce motion sickness in other environments. Space motion sickness is usually treated using pharmaceuticals, most of which have undesirable side effects. Further studies elucidating the underlying mechanism for space motion sickness may be required for developing new treatments.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antiemetics / therapeutic use
  • Habituation, Psychophysiologic
  • Humans
  • Space Motion Sickness / epidemiology*
  • Space Motion Sickness / etiology*
  • Space Motion Sickness / physiopathology*


  • Antiemetics