July 28, 2011


Ever been on a boat and suddenly felt horribly sick? Well, a whole lot of people have felt the very same thing. This sort of seasickness is commonly a form of motion sickness, which is what happens when your brain gets tricked! How so, you ask?


As you look out over the glistening blue water from your boat, your eyes may rest on a lighthouse or even a lonely house on the other side of the shore. Since your eyes are quite still and you’re looking at something stationary (also, quite still), your brain believes that you are also perfectly still. But if you’re on a rocking boat, your inner ear is able to sense that you’re not balanced and not still and is able to communicate to the brain that you’re actually moving.


Scientists believe that we tend to get sick when the brain is getting these sort of conflicting messages (one from the eyes that says we’re still and one from the ears that says we’re moving). They think that when this happens, the brain concludes that one of these messages is false and that we must be hallucinating (or dreaming) due to some sort of poison. And so, the brain comes to the rescue by releasing certain chemicals designed to make us vomit and remove the poison from our body.


Fun fact: When we feel like vomiting, we often refer to it as suffering from nausea (or being nausesous). In fact, the word nausea comes from the Greek for seasickness (naus means ship in Greek). So, it looks like even the dudes in ancient Greece felt the same thing!

Image: New York Times Company (illustrated by Victoria Roberts)


Posted by: Liz Nealon

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