Evidence from studies of provocative motion indicates that motion sickness is tightly linked to the disturbances of thermoregulation. The major aim of the current study was to determine whether provocative visual stimuli (immersion into the virtual reality simulating rides on a rollercoaster) affect skin temperature that reflects thermoregulatory cutaneous responses, and to test whether such stimuli alter cognitive functions. In 26 healthy young volunteers wearing head-mounted display (Oculus Rift), simulated rides consistently provoked vection and nausea, with a significant difference between the two versions of simulation software (Parrot Coaster and Helix). Basal finger temperature had bimodal distribution, with low-temperature group (n=8) having values of 23-29 °C, and high-temperature group (n=18) having values of 32-36 °C. Effects of cybersickness on finger temperature depended on the basal level of this variable: in subjects from former group it raised by 3-4 °C, while in most subjects from the latter group it either did not change or transiently reduced by 1.5-2 °C. There was no correlation between the magnitude of changes in the finger temperature and nausea score at the end of simulated ride. Provocative visual stimulation caused prolongation of simple reaction time by 20-50 ms; this increase closely correlated with the subjective rating of nausea. Lastly, in subjects who experienced pronounced nausea, heart rate was elevated. We conclude that cybersickness is associated with changes in cutaneous thermoregulatory vascular tone; this further supports the idea of a tight link between motion sickness and thermoregulation. Cybersickness-induced prolongation of reaction time raises obvious concerns regarding the safety of this technology.
Keywords: Heart rate; Motion sickness; Nausea; Reaction time; Skin temperature.
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