Fish in space: on the trail of motion sickness

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Fish in space are said to explain motion sickness

Every year at vacation time it is present again: motion sickness - agonizing for many vacationers who have to fight with nausea and vomiting, among other things, while driving, on the ship, in the bus or on an airplane. In many cases, tiredness, headache, difficulty concentrating or mood swings first occur, until the actual motion sickness is then manifested in addition to the nausea by symptoms such as pallor, weakness, rapid heartbeat, low blood pressure or dizziness. German scientists are now sending fish and snails into space in order to better research the hardly researched motion sickness.

Fish are becoming motion sick as well as people. The causes of the so-called "motion sickness" (or also motion sickness, in technical terms kinetosis) have not yet been fully clarified - that's why researchers from the universities of Erlangen-Nuremberg and Hohenheim will start a very special experiment next Friday: That's what we want the scientists send fish and snails into space because they can become "motion sick" just like humans. The extraordinary crew of the Soyuz rocket is to be supplemented by various algae, in order to possibly get information from cell changes in the state of weightlessness, why astronauts are so concerned with the physical substance.

Causes of motion sickness have not yet been clearly clarified Even if there is still a need for research into the cause of motion sickness - researchers have previously assumed that "the symptoms are caused by unusual accelerations (for example, waves on ships) that are triggered by various stimuli Balance organ in the inner ear act ". If these movements are not followed with the eyes all the time, the brain can no longer assign them and records them as an error message, which ultimately triggers the known symptoms of motion sickness such as nausea or dizziness. According to Peter Richter from the University of Erlangen, this applies to both people and fish, because "the inner ear of fish is very similar to the human ear."

Weightlessness prevents balance by the brain According to Richter, previous studies had found that fish in particular showed particularly strong symptoms, the ears of which differed in size in the ears. This is normally not a problem, because if humans or fish are in a familiar environment, this difference would be compensated for by the brain. However, if the familiar environment is left, this mechanism no longer works - just like in space, because then, according to Richter's explanation, the fish would try to correct the supposed misalignment by reflexes - just like people who try in the case of dizziness, to avoid falling by counter movements.

Closed ecosystem for four weeks in space For their new experiment, the scientists have now set four weeks in which they want to gain insights into how weightlessness affects the formation of auditory stones and the bones and muscles of fish. For this purpose, a self-contained ecosystem is to be sent into space for the first time - with 40 cichlid larvae, hornbill snails, the algae species Euglena gracilis and the aquatic plant horn herb.

Algae should also provide new insights In addition to fish, algae are also the focus of the observation, because according to Richter, it has long been known that “after just a few seconds of weightlessness, both the reading of the genes in the cell nucleus and the proteins in the cells change "So the next step is to investigate the underlying mechanisms," said the expert, because these processes would be very similar to the physical reactions of astronauts: "As soon as people are in space for a long time, the immune system becomes relatively quick weakened, the bones become weak - similar to osteoporosis - and muscle wasting occurs. ”

Unusual crew starts on Friday Next Friday, the journey for the extraordinary crew of the Soyuz rocket is to start from the Kazakh spaceport Baikonur - in preparation, the scientists had put fish, algae and all the technology in a box the size of a beer crate and against harmful influences how to protect from space radiation. The fully automated execution of the experiment is obvious: If the aquarium unexpectedly lost water, it was very difficult to collect it again in weightlessness, according to project manager Michael Lebert - and there was also the risk that the on-board electronics on board would be massively damaged can be.

Nausea and vomiting as a survival-related reaction In addition to the topic of motion sickness, the researchers are also concerned with vomiting due to excessive alcohol consumption - because, according to the scientists, the mechanism behind both phenomena could be the same. It can be assumed that historically, nausea and vomiting would be a survival-related reaction, as people used to come across poisonous foods when trying unknown plants. Therefore, according to project collaborator Ferdinand Haag, vomiting is "a very helpful reflex for all orally ingested poisons" - which would probably have the same effect in the case of motion sickness - only that it was not poisoning but unusual movements that triggered it.

Women are more affected by motion sickness than men
So even though, in principle, every person with a healthy organ of balance can get motion sick, it is assumed that around 5 to 10 percent of the population is particularly sensitive here - for example, women are affected more often than men, especially at the beginning of the Menstruation or in pregnancy. Also for people who are afraid of flying or who have had nausea from the outset, e.g. If you expect to drive a car, motion sickness actually occurs relatively often, and migraine sufferers are also very susceptible.

Prevention possible with simple means But even if the motion sickness is widespread - in the vast majority of cases, the symptoms such as nausea or dizziness disappear on their own accord as soon as the person concerned is no longer exposed to the unusual movements or, as on sea trips, usually after about two days getting used to. Nevertheless, there are various ways to prevent motion sickness without medication: For example, it is generally advisable to always sit in the direction of travel, not to drink alcohol before the trip, to avoid strong head movements and, if possible, to take the wheel yourself - because that Motion sickness mostly affects only passengers. In addition, when driving in a car or bus, it is advisable to look straight ahead at the road, to ensure controlled and regular breathing and to avoid reading and looking out of the side windows. When traveling by ship, it is often helpful to keep a firm eye on the horizon or the coast, to stay in the middle of the ship for large vehicles and to book a cabin with a window. And motion sickness can also be counteracted on planes: Here it is often recommended to choose a seat near the wings. (No)

Image: Gerd Altmann /

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