The Impact of Oral Promethazine on Human Whole-Body Motion Perceptual Thresholds

  • Ana Diaz-ArtilesEmail author
  • Adrian J. Priesol
  • Torin K. Clark
  • David P. Sherwood
  • Charles M. Oman
  • Laurence R. Young
  • Faisal Karmali
Research Article


Despite the widespread treatment of motion sickness symptoms using drugs and the involvement of the vestibular system in motion sickness, little is known about the effects of anti-motion sickness drugs on vestibular perception. In particular, the impact of oral promethazine, widely used for treating motion sickness, on vestibular perceptual thresholds has not previously been quantified. We examined whether promethazine (25 mg) alters vestibular perceptual thresholds in a counterbalanced, double-blind, within-subject study. Thresholds were determined using a direction recognition task (left vs. right) for whole-body yaw rotation, y-translation (interaural), and roll tilt passive, self-motions. Roll tilt thresholds were 31 % higher after ingestion of promethazine (P = 0.005). There were no statistically significant changes in yaw rotation and y-translation thresholds. This worsening of precision could have functional implications, e.g., during driving, bicycling, and piloting tasks. Differing results from some past studies of promethazine on the vestibulo-ocular reflex emphasize the need to study motion perception in addition to motor responses.


promethazine motion sickness human experiments vestibular perception anti-motion sickness drug medication 



We appreciate the participation of our anonymous subjects. We thank the Jenks Vestibular Physiology Lab for the use of the MOOG device and Dr. Dan Merfeld for his scientific insight and assistance using his MOOG device. We appreciate the assistance of Christine Finn at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary pharmacy. This research was supported by the National Space Biomedical Research Institute through NASA NCC 9-58 and by the National Institutes of Health through NIDCD DC013635 (FK). Preliminary results have been presented at a conference (Karmali et al. 2016b).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Informed consent was obtained from all subjects prior to participation. The study was approved by the Institutional Review Board (IRB) at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary (MEEI) and the Committee on the Use of Humans as Experimental Subjects (COUHES) at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in accordance with the ethical standards laid down in the 1975 Declaration of Helsinki, as revised in 2000.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Association for Research in Otolaryngology 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace EngineeringCornell UniversityIthacaUSA
  2. 2.Aeronautics & Astronautics DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of TechnologyCambridgeUSA
  3. 3.Massachusetts Eye and Ear InfirmaryBostonUSA
  4. 4.Department of Otology and LaryngologyHarvard Medical SchoolBostonUSA
  5. 5.Aerospace Engineering SciencesUniversity of Colorado at BoulderBoulderUSA
  6. 6.Jenks Vestibular Physiology LabMassachusetts Eye and Ear InfirmaryBostonUSA
  7. 7.Department of Otology and LaryngologyHarvard Medical SchoolBostonUSA

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