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The organs of balance are at the basis of our vestibular system, playing a major role in motion and orientation perception, and the control of our body, head and eye movements. To optimize this perception and control, our central nervous system inte-grates the information from the organs of balance with that of the eyes and other senses, as well as with cognitive information. In health and natural conditions this works amaz-ingly well. In (e.g., Ménière’s) disease and unnatural conditions (such as being moved by a car, ship or aircraft, or in virtual environments), this perception and control can be illusory and highly disabling due to, e.g., falls, vertigo or dizziness, and different forms of motion sickness (e.g., car-, sea-, air-, cyber-, simulator, and space sickness). These issues are of particular interest to military personnel operating in extreme conditions. With the growth of technology and increasing age, these side effects can be predicted to play an increasing role in the coming years. This not only holds for physical conditions but for virtual environments as well. Together with universities, TNO can and should be helpful in combining the understanding of the phenomena at issue with solutions that better go down to the core of the matter.
Thorough en extensive studies with human subjects have been realised by master and Ph.D. students and colleagues at TNO in different combinations of physical and visual motion. The results thereof showed that the perception and control of self-motion and orientation as well as the severity of motion sickness are correlated and can be explained by assuming that our central nervous system combines sensory with cognitive information. The explication of the role of cognition allows for a better prediction not only of the effects at issue per se, but also the effect of countermeasures to minimise, e.g., carsickness, seasickness, airsickness, as well as simulator sickness and cybersickness.
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