Lonely Planet Writer

Expert explains why we get car sickness from reading

The reason people suffer car sickness while reading on a journey is their brains think they are being poisoned, according to a leading neuroscientist.

When reading in a moving car, our brains think we are being poisoned, thereby making us sick to get the toxins out of our systems
When reading in a moving car, our brains think we are being poisoned, thereby making us sick to get the toxins out of our systems Image by quattrostagioni / CC BY 2.0

Dean Burnett, who is also an author, said that technically, reading in this way should not be a problem. However, it causes car sickness because it triggers a sense of confusion inside our brains.

You may be sitting motionless in the car but the
You may be sitting motionless in the car is moving and this sends mixed messages to your  brain  Image by Matt Biddulph / CC BY 2.0

The New Zealand Herald reports that the area which holds all our sensory information – the thalamus – is the guilty party as it sends out the wrong information to us.

It functions fine when we’re walking by telling our legs to go forward, but gets muddled up when a person reads while inside a car that is also moving.

The expert explained that in a car your body is still and there are no signals that you are physically moving.

However, in a human’s ear, the fluids obey the laws of physics.

As the rocking and movement goes on, the brain ends up with mixed messages.

In its panic to find a solution, the brain believes that only reason for this is that the body has been poisoned. Which is why it tries to expel the perceived neurotoxin by making a person vomit.

News.com.au reported Burnett as claiming that children were more liable to get motion sickness because their brains are still in a state of development. The good news is that many of those who get car sickness when young actually grow out of it.

And is there is cure? Not really, other than putting the book down.