Highly Effective Seasickness Treatment on the Horizon

Highly Effective Seasickness Treatment on the Horizon



Because puking is damn unattractive, people.

By Nicole Buckler

So I took a trip to London on the ferry recently. I left Dublin Port at 9am and was in London Euston for 2:45. I even caught a new-release movie on the ferry in the on-board cinema. There was wi-fi on the ferry and the train, and I didn’t have to turn off my phone. It was fast, stress-free and only cost 33 euro with no baggage limit. Yes you read that right.

Compare this to flying: By the time you get to the airport, check in, fly, get delayed and do circle work in the sky, land, fight the baggage carousel, and then get one of those ghastly expensive trains into London that cost more than the flight, you end up wondering why you didn’t just take the ferry.

There is only one drawback to the ferry-train route to London. Rough seas. The puking. Oh my God I puked. And puked and puked again. It was very, very unsexy. We had a rough trip over due to seas that were something like the Clooney movie The Perfect Storm. I felt like a lobster fisherperson without the seafood bounty to show for it. While on Irish Ferries, I did such a hardcore puke I saw food come up that I originally ate in 1985. But I wasn’t alone in the expulsion of breakfast. Everyone was at it. The ferry staff were running around with puke bags and bins in hand thinking, “Why didn’t I take that job in Holyhead Tesco when I had the chance? I’m an idiot.”

The only dude who didn’t puke was a friendly Romanian chap sitting next to me who continued chatting to me as I deposited my stomach contents into a greaseproof paper bag for the 7th time. Poor feckin guy. I was awful, gross company. He continued to drink his 9:30 am beer.

Seasickness has never had a cure. I have tried the wristbands, all they did was cut off the blood supply to my hands and made me look like a blue-fingered freak. I have tried the medications administered by mouth. Every one of them made me feel like I was trapped in a bad LSD trip that wouldn’t end unless I appeared before Lucifer, naked, and late for an exam. No, thanks. I have tried ginger. Nope, not even close. When I threw it all back up it just made me feel like I had ginger beer lodged in my nasal cavity for 24 hours. Hell nope.

But now, this ferry journey is set to become THE way to travel. Why? Because the misery of motion sickness could be ended within five to ten years thanks to a new treatment being developed by scientists. Oh scientists we really love you, keep up the good work (and stay on that teleportation thing, okay?)

Here’s the rub: The cause of motion sickness is still a mystery but a popular theory among scientists says it is to do with confusing messages received by our brains from both our ears and eyes, when we are moving.

Around three in ten people (me, me and me) experience hard-to-bear motion sickness symptoms, such as dizziness, severe nausea, cold sweats, and more. By “more” I think they mean the symptom of deep unsexiness.

Research from Imperial College London shows that a mild electrical current applied to the scalp can dampen responses in an area of the brain that is responsible for processing motion signals. Doing this helps the brain reduce the impact of the confusing inputs it is receiving and so prevents the problem that causes the symptoms of motion sickness.

This technique offers a safe and effective intervention that is likely to be available for anyone to buy in the future. I’ll not only buy the treatment, I’ll buy as many shares in the company as I can damn well afford, and I’ll buy the doctors all a burger as well.

Dr Qadeer Arshad from the Department of Medicine at Imperial College London led the research. He said: “We are confident that within five to ten years people will be able to walk into the chemist and buy an anti-seasickness device. It may be something like a tens machine that is used for back pain. We hope it might even integrate with a mobile phone, which would be able to deliver the small amount of electricity required via the headphone jack. In either case, you would temporarily attach small electrodes to your scalp before travelling – on a cross channel ferry, for example.”

I hope that means an Irish seas cross-ferry channel. The fish in that water can take no more of my expulsions from the top deck.

In the study, volunteers wore electrodes on their heads for about 10 minutes. They were then asked to sit in a motorised rotating chair that also tilts to simulate the motions that tend to make people sick on boats or rollercoasters. Following the treatment, they were less likely to feel nauseous and they recovered more quickly.

Professor Michael Gresty from Imperial College who collaborated in this study and is a world expert on motion sickness said: “The problem with treatments for motion sickness is that the effective ones are usually tablets that also make people drowsy. That’s all very well if you are on a short journey or a passenger, but what about if you work on a cruise ship and need to deal with motion sickness whilst continuing to work? We are really excited about the potential of this new treatment to provide an effective measure to prevent motion sickness with no apparent side effects. The benefits that we saw are very close to the effects we see with the best travel sickness medications available.”

The research team are already beginning to talk to partners in industry about developing the device. In particular, there is interest from the military for various aspects of their work. This might include helping people who are remotely controlling drones using a visual interface that can lead to nausea.

Dr Arshad said: “From other studies we also have evidence that stimulating the brain in this way can enhance attention and concentration. This aspect is of great interest to the military and we imagine that other groups such as students and people who spend long periods playing computer games will also want to try it out. The currents involved are very small and there is no reason to expect any adverse effects from short term use.”

Even if the currents give me brain damage, I am prepared to take a few hits on my frontal lobe in exchange for sexier travelling. Who’s with me?


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