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In the past, motion sickness was studied almost exclusively by physicians, as ship doctors searched for a medical explanation for the phenomenon. It’s been only in the past 40 years, Stoffregen said, that there are people studying motion sickness from a nonmedical perspective.
Now that realistic digital devices are adding new triggers for inducing motion sickness, more people from various disciplines are studying it. Video games have become more realistic, as they immerse players in a quasi-virtual reality.
“Nobody ever got sick from playing Pac-Man,” Stoffregen said, who has also done studies on video games and their connection to motion sickness.
More recently, complaints have surfaced about the iPhone’s latest operating system causing some people to feel dizzy and nauseated from its 3D-like effects.
The search for relief
Stoffregen’s theory might be getting more recognition these days, but for years it was dismissed or ignored, in part because it came from Minnesota. Stoffregen first published his theory in 1991.
“Sea sickness has been the dominant driving force for the study of this,” Kennedy said.
Courtney Freese, of Minneapolis, shudders at the thought of Stoffregen’s moving room, but she says she’d love to understand her motion sickness better.
When she was younger, motion sickness didn’t seem to affect her. Now the 23-year-old can’t ride roller coasters without feeling queasy. She also gets dizzy from watching movies on the giant Imax screen.
“That was a nightmare!” she said, recalling the last time she went to a movie. “I spent the majority of it looking down at the floor, listening to it but not actually watching the movie.”
If Stoffregen is right, then his research could spawn further studies to develop better ways to prevent the onset of motion sickness — instead of having to treat the subsequent dizziness and nausea. “What we have learned is there is a relationship between the way you perceive and control the motion of your own body and your propensity to get sick,” Stoffregen said.
For now, Freese keeps track of her symptoms and is always looking for an exit strategy when her stomach starts to turn.
“I get myself to a safe puke location,” she said.
Allie Shah • 612-673-4488