Profiling subjective symptoms and autonomic changes associated with cybersickness

Auton Neurosci. 2017 Mar;203:41-50. doi: 10.1016/j.autneu.2016.12.004. Epub 2016 Dec 18.


Our aim was to expand knowledge of cybersickness - a subtype of motion sickness provoked by immersion into a moving computer-generated virtual reality. Fourteen healthy subjects experienced a 15-min rollercoaster ride presented via a head-mounted display (Oculus Rift), for 3 consecutive days. Heart rate, respiration, finger and forehead skin conductance were measured during the experiment; this was complemented by a subjective nausea rating during the ride and by Motion Sickness Assessment Questionnaire before, immediately after and then 1, 2 and 3h post-ride. Physiological measurements were analysed in three dimensions: ride time, association with subjective nausea rating and experimental day. Forehead, and to a lesser extent finger phasic skin conductance activity showed a correlation with the reported nausea ratings, while alteration in other measured parameters were mostly related to autonomic arousal during the virtual ride onset. A significant habituation was observed in subjective symptom scores and in the duration of tolerated provocation. The latter increased from 7.0±1.3min on the first day to 12.0±2.5min on the third day (p<0.05); this was associated with a reduced slope of nausea rise from 1.3±0.3units/min on the first to 0.7±0.1units/min on the third day (p<0.01). Furthermore, habituation with repetitive exposure was also determined in the total symptom score post-ride: it fell from 1.6±0.1 on the first day to 1.2±0.1 on the third (p<0.001). We conclude that phasic changes of skin conductance on the forehead could be used to objectively quantify nausea; and that repetitive exposure to provocative VR content results in habituation.

Keywords: Cybersickness; Habituation; Motion sickness; Nausea; Skin conductance.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Arousal / physiology
  • Autonomic Nervous System / physiopathology*
  • Electrocardiography
  • Female
  • Fingers / physiopathology
  • Forehead / physiopathology
  • Galvanic Skin Response
  • Habituation, Psychophysiologic
  • Heart Rate
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motion Sickness / physiopathology*
  • Respiration
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Time Factors
  • User-Computer Interface*
  • Young Adult