Postural Activity During Use of a Head-Mounted Display: Sex Differences in the “Driver–Passenger” Effect

Christopher Curry, Nicolette Peterson, Ruixuan Li, Thomas A. Stoffregen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Motion sickness is common in virtual environments. The risk of motion sickness varies widely between individuals and across situations. The subjective experience of motion sickness often is preceded by distinctive patterns of movement in the control of head and body posture. Previous research has documented reliable sex differences in the kinematics of postural activity, as well as reliable differences in postural activity between participants who were in control of a virtual vehicle and participants who were not. We asked whether postural precursors of motion sickness would simultaneously be influenced by individual and situational factors. We analyzed movement of the head and torso while seated participants were exposed to a driving video game presented through a head-mounted display. Half of the participants were women, and half were men. Using a yoked-control design, half of the participants controlled the virtual vehicle (Drivers), whereas half watched previously recorded vehicle trajectories (Passengers). The maximum exposure duration was 15 min, but participants were instructed to discontinue participation immediately if they experienced any symptoms of motion sickness, however mild. We analyzed movement kinematics not only in terms of sex and vehicle control but also in terms of participants who did or did not report motion sickness. Movement differed between Drivers and Passengers, in terms of both the spatial magnitude and multifractality of movement. The spatial magnitude of movement was simultaneously influenced by sex (men vs. women) and vehicle control (Drivers vs. Passengers). In addition, in statistically significant interactions, we identified postural precursors of motion sickness that differed between Drivers and Passengers and, separately, between Drivers and Passengers as a function of sex. The results are consistent with a prediction of the postural instability theory of motion sickness etiology and shed new light on the multifactorial origins of postural precursors of motion sickness in virtual environments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number581132
JournalFrontiers in Virtual Reality
StatePublished - Dec 23 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding. Elisheeva Savvateev was supported by the University of Minnesota Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program. CC was supported by the NRT grant for translational sensory science (NRT-1734815). TS was supported by NSF-1901423, CHS: Medium: Prediction, Early Detection, and Mitigation of Virtual Reality Simulator Sickness.

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2020 Curry, Peterson, Li and Stoffregen.


  • cybersickness
  • head-mounted display
  • motion sickness
  • posture
  • sex differences
  • virtual reality


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