Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Motion Sickness Is Genetic

For as long as I can remember, I've been the victim of motion sickness.  It was difficult for me to ride in a car as a child, sitting in the back seat, crushed between brothers and a sister, with little to no view of where we were going.  Hell for me was the obligatory weekend sojourn just about every summer of my youth through the winding roads of West-By-God-Virginia to "Camp".  Mom tried everything from having me sing songs to take my mind off of the trip to eating saltines.  As I became more familiar with the ride, the motion sickness lessened.  It wasn't long after that Camp got sold and we never went back.  Such is my life.

Even today, it is sometimes hard for me to be a passenger in a car.  So far, though, I've never been sick on an airplane or a cruise ship.  However riding on the L makes me nauseous, now and then; there are times I have to step off the train for air, then wait to catch the next one.  Certain rides in amusement parks are strictly off-limits.  And I am persona non grata on Space Mountain in Disneyland a few years ago.  

Last year, the consumer genetics firm 23AndMe issued the first ever genome-wide association study of motion sickness. The study, published in Oxford Journals’ Human Molecular Genetics is the first to reveal the genetic variants of motion sickness and involved 80,000 consenting customers who had submitted material to 23AndMe to be genetically analyzed.

That's right - you can blame motion sickness on your parents.

Given that roughly one in three people are affected by motion sickness, the study is obviously valuable—and given the highly hereditary nature of motion sickness effects, mapping genetic effects of motion sickness is a perfect fit for 23AndMe. Results from the study have estimated that up to 70% of the variation in risk for motion sickness is due to genetics.  And it found 35 genetic factors associated with motion sickness that are statistically significant when compared with the whole human genome instead of just looking at particular genes. 


Many of these factors are in or near genes involved in balance and eye, ear, and cranial development—meaning motion sickness likely triggers effects in these areas. They even found that several of these factors had the potential to hit women harder, potentially tripling motion sickness' effect on those systems. The study also confirmed that people suffering motion sickness are more prone to migraines, vertigo, morning sickness, and are poor sleepers. Overall, the results pointed toward the importance of the nervous system in motion sickness and a possible role for glucose levels in motion-induced nausea and vomiting.

My brother Matt is afflicted with motion sickness as well, but to my knowledge, our younger brother Mike and sister Kim are not.  Genetics is a fickle thing - just like I am the only one with green eyes, heart issues, and hair loss.

But I am the best looking one.