Going Full-Tilt Into Turns May Ease Motion Sickness on Trains

On tilting trains, changing timing and speed of tilt can improve passenger comfort, researchers say

TUESDAY, Aug. 9 (HealthDay News) -- Motion sickness on the world's tilting trains could be eliminated by changing the way cars take curves, researchers say.

They found that by forcing the cars to turn faster and tilt only at the beginning and end of curves rather than during the curve, they could prevent passengers from experiencing motion sickness.

"This is a major breakthrough and a very practical solution to a problem affecting people's everyday lives," said the study's lead author, Dr. Bernard Cohen, professor of neurology at New York City's Mount Sinai School of Medicine, in a hospital news release.

The operators of the Schweizerische Bundesbahnen (SBB), the train system in Switzerland, requested that researchers help determine how to increase the speed of their trains while improving the comfort of passengers.

"After seeing the results of the study, the SBB invested 3.2 billion Swiss francs for trains utilizing the results of the new technology that came from these experiments," said Cohen. "Hopefully, we'll see this trend extend to other European and American markets as well."

When a tilting train enters a turn, sensors on the front wheels signal the other cars when to tilt. But there is a delay in the tilting of the other cars that, when coupled with the centrifugal force produced by the turn, can cause motion sickness.

In conducting the study, published online in the FASEB (Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology) Journal, researchers placed sensors on the front car of a seven-car train and on the heads of 200 passengers to evaluate the severity of their motion sickness.

Using a global positioning system (GPS), researchers found they could alter timing of the tilt. When the cars tilted only at the start and end of curves and took the turns faster, no motion sickness was reported, they said. This change also reduced lateral thrust, making it easier for passengers to walk in the aisles of the train cars.

More information

The U.S. National Institutes of Health provides more information on motion sickness.

Mary Elizabeth Dallas SOURCE: Mount Sinai School of Medicine, news release, Aug. 4, 2011

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