Why Do We Get Cyber-Sick?


Image: NAUTILUS
Motion sickness is an ancient phenomenon, which also occurs in modern virtual reality environments. However, it is still relatively unknown what causes this physical reaction. Suzanne Nooij and her colleagues at the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics looked at motion sickness occurring while watching moving scenes, and found that it is primarily dependent on the strength of the movement illusion this causes: The stronger the sense of self-motion, the more sickness is experienced. The new findings ask for refinements of previous theories of motion sickness.

By Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics | NAUTILUS

Probably everybody is familiar with the train illusion: The feeling that your train is departing when, in fact, you see the train at the neighboring platform departing. This illusion shows that motion of your visual surroundings can give a compelling sense of self-motion in stationary observers. This phenomenon is exploited in many virtual reality environments and vehicle simulators. A negative side effect, however, is that prolonged exposure to a visually induced sense self-motion can give rise to motion sickness: You may get a headache, or feel dizzy, or nauseous. Although this is a very old problem, there are still very different views on its causes and cures. Dr. Nooij and her colleagues from the Department of Prof. Bülthoff at the MPI for biological Cybernetics tested three different theories in collaboration with the Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz.

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