The Neurophysiology and Treatment of Motion Sickness

Dtsch Arztebl Int. 2018 Oct 12;115(41):687-696. doi: 10.3238/arztebl.2018.0687.


Background: Seasickness and travel sickness are classic types of motion illness. Modern simulation systems and virtual reality representations can also induce comparable symptoms. Such manifestations can be alleviated or prevented by various measures.

Methods: This review is based on pertinent publications retrieved by a PubMed search, with special attention to clinical trials and review articles.

Results: Individuals vary in their susceptibility to autonomic symptoms, ranging from fatigue to massive vomiting, induced by passive movement at relatively low frequencies (0.2 to 0.4 Hz) in situations without any visual reference to the horizontal plane. Younger persons and women are considered more susceptible, and twin studies have revealed a genetic component as well. The various types of motion sickness are adequately explained by the intersensory conflict model, incorporating the vestibular, visual, and proprioceptive systems and extended to include consideration of postural instability and asymmetry of the otolith organs. Scopolamine and H1-antihistamines, such as dimenhydrinate and cinnarizine, can be used as pharmacotherapy. The symptoms can also be alleviated by habituation through long exposure or by the diminution of vestibular stimuli.

Conclusion: The various types of motion sickness can be treated with general measures to lessen the intersensory conflict, behavioral changes, and drugs.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Fatigue / etiology
  • Histamine Antagonists / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Motion Sickness / diagnosis
  • Motion Sickness / physiopathology
  • Motion Sickness / therapy*
  • Neurophysiology / methods*
  • Vomiting / etiology


  • Histamine Antagonists