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Use of Controlled Diaphragmatic Breathing for the Management of Motion Sickness in a Virtual Reality Environment

Abstract

Evidence indicates that activation of the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) suppresses physiological responses associated with motion sickness. Research also shows paced breathing increases PNS activation; the current study examines the use of paced diaphragmatic breathing (DB) training to quell motion sickness symptoms. Healthy participants (N = 60) were pre-screened for motion sickness susceptibility. Participants were then randomly assigned to either a control condition, focusing on environmental awareness, or to an experimental condition implementing paced DB. Following this, participants were exposed to a virtual reality (VR) motion sickness experience, while heart rate variability, breathing rate (RPM), and motion sickness ratings were collected. Results demonstrated participants in the DB condition had higher PNS activation and reported fewer motion sickness symptoms during the VR experience than the participants in the control condition. Results suggest that the DB protocol can be used to significantly increase PNS tone and decrease the development of motion sickness symptoms.

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Correspondence to Matthew Edward Brannon Russell.

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Russell, M.E.B., Hoffman, B., Stromberg, S. et al. Use of Controlled Diaphragmatic Breathing for the Management of Motion Sickness in a Virtual Reality Environment. Appl Psychophysiol Biofeedback 39, 269–277 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10484-014-9265-6

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Keywords

  • Breathing rate
  • Heart rate variability
  • Motion sickness
  • Diaphragmatic breathing
  • Parasympathetic nervous system