Archives of Ask A Scientist!

About "Ask A Scientist!"

On September 17th, 1998 the Ithaca Journal ran its first "Ask A Scientist!" article in which Professor Neil Ashcroft , who was then the director of CCMR, answered the question "What is Jupiter made of?" Since then, we have received over 1,000 questions from students and adults from all over the world. Select questions are answered weekly and published in the Ithaca Journal and on our web site. "Ask A Scientist!" reaches more than 21,000 Central New York residents through the Ithaca Journal and countless others around the world throught the "Ask a Scientist!" web site.

Across disciplines and across the state, from Nobel Prize winning scientist David Lee to notable science education advocate Bill Nye, researchers and scientists have been called on to respond to these questions. For more than seven years, kids - and a few adults - have been submitting their queries to find out the answer to life's everyday questions.

Previous Week's Question Published: 3 November, 1999 Next Week's Question
Motion sickness stems from inner ear
Question
Why do people get seasick or carsick?

Question
Motion sickness is a common disorder resulting from the brain receiving conflicting signals concerning motion. We detect motion in several ways. We use our eyes to sense objects moving either towards or away from us. We also use a special organ inside our head called the labyrinth or inner ear. Every time we move our head, the inner ears tells our brain that our head is moving. While sitting in a moving car, we see motion with our eyes and feel the motion of the car with our inner ear.

Suppose we decide we decide to a read a book while riding in the car. Our inner ear still feels motion, but our eyes tell us that we are not moving because the words on the page don't appear to move. This conflict between our eyes and our inner ear that tells our brain that something is wrong. We feel dizzy because our brain does not have a clear signal of what is moving. Our brain translates this confusion into a command to stop eating or perhaps to spit out whatever we ate because we may be upset because of something we ate.

One of the best things we can do when we begin to feel motion sickness is to look out the window at a distant object. That will coordinate the movement signals from your eyes with your inner ear. Distract yourself by using a fan or listen to music. Several medications such as dimenhydrinate (Dramamine) or scopolamine patches may also be helpful in relieving the problem.