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Visually induced nausea causes characteristic changes in cerebral, autonomic and endocrine function in humans

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Adam D Farmer, Vin F Ban, Steven J Coen, Gareth J Sanger, Gareth J Barker, Michael A Gresty, Vincent P Giampietro, Steven C Williams, Dominic-Luc Webb, Per M Hellström, Paul Lr Andrews, Qasim Aziz

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1183-1196
Number of pages14
JournalThe Journal of Physiology
Issue number5
Early online date2 Jan 2015
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2015

King's Authors


An integrated understanding of the physiological mechanisms involved in the genesis of nausea remains lacking. We aimed to describe the psychophysiological changes accompanying visually induced motion sickness, using a motion video, hypothesizing that differences would be evident between subjects who developed nausea in comparison to those that did not. A motion, or a control, stimulus was presented to 98 healthy subjects in a randomized crossover design. Validated questionnaires and visual analogue scales (VAS) were used for the assessment of anxiety and nausea. Autonomic and electrogastrographic activity were measured at baseline and continuously thereafter. Plasma vasopressin and ghrelin were measured in response to the motion video. Subjects were stratified into quartiles based on VAS nausea scores, with the upper and lower quartiles considered to be nausea sensitive and resistant respectively. 28 subjects were exposed to the motion video during functional neuroimaging. During the motion video, nausea sensitive subjects had lower normogastria:tachygastria ratio and cardiac vagal tone but higher cardiac sympathetic index in comparison to the control video. Furthermore, nausea sensitive subjects had decreased plasma ghrelin and demonstrated increased activity the left anterior cingulate cortex. Nausea VAS scores positively correlated with plasma vasopressin, left inferior frontal and middle occipital gyri activity and negatively correlated with plasma ghrelin and brain activity in the right cerebellar tonsil, declive, culmen, lingual gyrus and cuneus. This study demonstrates that the subjective sensation of nausea is associated with objective changes in autonomic, endocrine and brain networks, and thus identifies potential objective biomarkers and targets for therapeutic interventions.

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