Putting on electricity to your brain has been proclaimed as a way to improve cognitive function and perhaps combat motion sickness.
Motion sickness is quite a common problem; it affects significantly three in 10 of us, and it has the potential to affect each and every one of us. And as of yet there’s no good therapies for motion sickness,” according to lead author Qadeer Arshad, a researcher at Imperial College London
So, researchers have decided to try and combat this with a small electric current applied to the scalp, which affect the regions of the brain associated with motion. The signals that this region of the brain received were consequently moistened. This in turn reduced the intensity of confusion the brain experienced between conflicting motor and visual signals, decreasing the overall feeling of motion sickness.
For the study, the test subjects sat in a chair that was rotated to induce nausea.
Each candidate was put on the chair twice. The first time without the device, and the second time with half the group using the device and the other half not.
The test subjects that never experienced the electric currents had a very sorry time of it. Not only was there no rest from the nausea, but it was actually worse the second time around. This is because people have a higher susceptibility to motion sickness if they experience dizzying conditions shortly after a first dose of nausea.
However, the other half who had the device switched on during the second run felt dramatically different.
We found that it took people a lot longer to develop sickness. The device produces compatible results to what we can currently get with the best drugs,” Arshad commented.
The team has tested it on 20 people so far since it’s very difficult to recruit for motion sickness, given that the candidates have to be willing to be spun around to the point of nausea, claimed Arshad.
Although, running a small current through the brain might sound scary, this technique has been used many times, for example in the rehabilitation of patients after a stroke, and in memory and attention studies.
It’s a very small current, so there’s no side effects that we know of,” assures Arshad.
The machine looks rather like something out of Frankenstein’s laboratory at the moment, but the researchers hope that one day it will be a simple device you can discretely plug into the headphone jack of your phone.
And it isn’t just limited to seasickness: The device, in theory, could be used to tackle any type of motion sickness. In fact, the team’s next venture is to test how effective their motion sickness therapy is for virtual reality disorientation.