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Journal Article

A re-investigation of the role of utricular asymmetries in Space Motion Sickness

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Nooij, S., Vanspauwen, R., Bos, J., & Wuyts, F. (2011). A re-investigation of the role of utricular asymmetries in Space Motion Sickness. Journal of Vestibular Research, 21(3), 141-151. doi:10.3233/VES-2011-0400.

Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0013-BBA2-F
During the first days of spaceflight, about 50–70 of the astronauts experience symptoms of Space Motion Sickness (SMS). It has been proposed that an asymmetry between the left and right otolith organs contributes to an astronaut's individual susceptibility. A recently developed test to measure unilateral utricular function enabled us to re-investigate this so-called otolith asymmetry hypothesis, while using the paradigm of sustained centrifugation as a ground based model for SMS. This latter paradigm has been shown to elicit symptoms similar to those of SMS and is referred to as Sickness Induced by Centrifugation (SIC). In 15 healthy subjects unilateral utricular function was assessed by recording ocular counter rolling during a unilateral centrifugation paradigm. In addition, saccular function was assessed by recording Vestibular Evoked Myogenic Potentials (VEMPs), and horizontal semicircular canal function was assessed using bithermal caloric stimulation. SIC-susceptible subjects showed a marginally higher degree of utricular asymmetry, utricular sensitivity and semicircular canal sensitivity (p < 0.1) than the non-susceptible group. Interestingly, a logistic regression model using both utricular and semicircular canal parameters led to a correct classification of 91 of the subjects. As such, these results suggest that otolith asymmetry is at most one factor – and not present in all susceptible subjects – in defining susceptibility to SMS and SIC. Both the utricular and the canal system might be involved as well.