Motion sickness can be a debilitating condition for many people, preventing them from traveling and engaging in various activities such as sailing. There are a few drugs available to control motion sickness, but they have side effects such as drowsiness and for many people are simply a choice of choosing one discomfort over another.
A new device, developed by Otolith Labs, a company out of Washington, DC, may soon become a new, drug-free option for managing the symptoms of motion sickness.
The Otolith device consists of a vibrating gadget, attached to a headband, that is placed behind the ear. The vibrator works on the principle of bone conduction, that some hearing aids utilize, to stimulate the vestibular system. The signals that are delivered are essentially random white noise, the purpose of which seems to be to confuse the brain into ignoring motion signals altogether.
Motion sickness results from conflicting signals reaching the brain, the brain becoming confused as it can’t reconcile what the eyes and vestibular system are telling it. The Otolith device seems to disrupt the vestibular system’s signal so much that the brain automatically starts to disregard it completely, and the conflict between signals essentially disappears.
The technology is already proving itself in initial trials, but there’s a lot more work left to prove it in larger trials, as well as get a grasp on the actual underlying mechanism that it’s activating.