Small amounts of electrical current from a mobile device may soon be used to relieve symptoms of motion sickness, a latest study conducted by scientists from the United Kingdom suggests.

In a report issued on the medical journal Neurology, researchers from Imperial College London described how brain zaps can affect a part of the brain that connects motion processors.

Motion sickness is believed to be produced when the brain receives mixed sensory inputs, in turn confusing the balance coordination within the vestibular system. The researchers applied a transcranial direct current simulation to the brain in order to reduce the impact of these mixed sensory inputs. 

Dr. Qadeer Arshad, lead researcher from the Department of Medicine at Imperial College London, hopes that in five or ten years, an anti-motion sickness device that could transport electrical current through the headphone jack may be out in the market. He says that this device may be similar to a 'tens machine that is used for back pain'.

Motion sickness simulation

At the research trials, twenty volunteers were spun on a 'chunder chair' that simulates motion sickness. Ten of these volunteers were zapped with minimal amounts of electrical current, while the other ten were given dummy treatment.

Those who were stimulated took an extra 207 seconds to acquire motion sickness. Meanwhile, those who were given dummy treatment felt queasy 57 seconds sooner.

The researchers noted that the stimulation improved the recovery times of volunteers, and that it had no notable side-effects.

For military use

Professor Michael Gresty of Imperial College London said people treated with tablets usually become drowsy. He explained that this side-effect is experienced by workers on cruise ships and naval military.

"The benefits we saw are very close to the effects we see with the best travel sickness medications available," he added.

Current treatments include the drug known as scopolamine, but according to Dr. Arshad, it is "only partially effective and has very strong side effects" as it induces sleepiness.

He said that the military is interested in developing the electrical current treatment and that even students and computer gamers may benefit from it. He added that the treatment may also possibly enhance concentration and awareness.

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