Prevalence, predictors and prevention of motion sickness in zero-G parabolic flights

Golding, John F., Paillard, Aurore, Normand, Hervé, Besnard, Stéphane and Denise, Pierre (2017) Prevalence, predictors and prevention of motion sickness in zero-G parabolic flights. Aerospace Medicine and Human Performance, 88 (1). pp. 1-7.


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.

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 5 246 person-flights (193 men, 53 women), ages (M 6 SD) 36.0 6 11.3 yr. An anonymous questionnaire included motion sickness rating (1 5 OK to 6 5 vomiting), Motion Sickness Susceptibility Questionnaire (MSSQ), antimotion sickness medication, prior zero-G experience, anxiety level, and other characteristics.

Participants had lower MSSQ percentile scores (27.4 6 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 6 1.58) were lower than for nonmedicated fliers (2.93 6 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.

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.

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