Motion sickness: it all started 550 million years ago

Spencer Salter

    Research output: Contribution to specialist publicationArticle


    Life started around 3.8 to 4.1 billion years ago. For a large part of that time, organisms on Earth were simple and evolution was slow. But something remarkable happened around 550m years ago. Increases in calcium and oxygen in the environment led to the development of the inner ears and balance organs (the vestibular system). Another 165m years after that, some organisms – including those that would evolve into human beings – were lured onto land, perhaps to get a better view.

    Jumping forward to around 2,000 years ago, the Greek physician Hippocrates wrote that “sailing on the sea proves that motion disorders the body”. Indeed, the word “nausea” is derived from the Greek “naus”, relating to ships, sailing or sailors.

    About 65% of people suffer from motion sickness, women more often than men, with peak sensitivity around the age of 11. But why is it so common?

    Normal response
    Motion sickness happens when there is a mismatch between what your eyes are telling your brain and what your inner ears sense as motion.
    Original languageEnglish
    Specialist publicationThe Conversation
    Publication statusPublished - 6 Sep 2019


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