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Free Content Prevalence, Predictors, and Prevention of Motion Sickness in Zero-G Parabolic Flights

INTRODUCTION: Zero-G parabolic flight reproduces the weightlessness of space for short periods. However, motion sickness may affect some fliers. The aim was to assess the extent of this problem and to find possible predictors and modifying factors.

METHODS: Airbus zero-G flights consist of 31 parabolas performed in blocks. Each parabola consisted of 20 s of 0 g sandwiched by 20 s of hypergravity of 1.5–1.8 g. The survey covered N = 246 person-flights (193 men, 53 women), ages (M ± SD) 36.0 ± 11.3 yr. An anonymous questionnaire included motion sickness rating (1 = OK to 6 = vomiting), Motion Sickness Susceptibility Questionnaire (MSSQ), antimotion sickness medication, prior zero-G experience, anxiety level, and other characteristics.

RESULTS: Participants had lower MSSQ percentile scores (27.4 ± 28.0) than the population norm of 50. Motion sickness was experienced by 33% and 12% vomited. Less motion sickness was predicted by older age, greater prior zero-G flight experience, medication with scopolamine, lower MSSQ scores, but not gender or anxiety. Sickness ratings in fliers pretreated with scopolamine (1.81 ± 1.58) were lower than for nonmedicated fliers (2.93 ± 2.16), and incidence of vomiting in fliers using scopolamine treatment was reduced by half to a third. Possible confounding factors including age, sex, flight experience, and MSSQ could not account for this.

CONCLUSION: Motion sickness affected one-third of zero-G fliers despite being intrinsically less motion sickness susceptible compared to the general population. Susceptible individuals probably try to avoid such a provocative environment. Risk factors for motion sickness included younger age and higher MSSQ scores. Protective factors included prior zero-G flight experience (habituation) and antimotion sickness medication.

Golding JF, Paillard AC, Normand H, Besnard S, Denise P. Prevalence, predictors, and prevention of motion sickness in zero-G parabolic flights. Aerosp Med Hum Perform. 2017; 88(1):3–9.

Keywords: age; habituation; motion sickness; parabolic; scopolamine; space; vestibular

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Psychology, Faculty of Science and Technology, University of Westminster, and University of the Arts London, London College of Fashion, London, UK

Publication date: January 1, 2017

More about this publication?
  • This journal (formerly Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine), representing the members of the Aerospace Medical Association, is published monthly for those interested in aerospace medicine and human performance. It is devoted to serving and supporting all who explore, travel, work, or live in hazardous environments ranging from beneath the sea to the outermost reaches of space. The original scientific articles in this journal provide the latest available information on investigations into such areas as changes in ambient pressure, motion sickness, increased or decreased gravitational forces, thermal stresses, vision, fatigue, circadian rhythms, psychological stress, artificial environments, predictors of success, health maintenance, human factors engineering, clinical care, and others. This journal also publishes notes on scientific news and technical items of interest to the general reader, and provides teaching material and reviews for health care professionals.

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