Monday, April 18, 2011

Vestibular Sense & Dolphins

While hunting for information in response to a student question (the best type of prompt to get me thinking!), I happened upon this interesting post on the vestibular sense of dolphins from the Dolphin Communication Project (DCP).

Is this a thinly-veiled excuse to share weird animal information? Maybe. But it does relate to psychology, particularly sensation.

According to the post, some evolutionary biologists believe dolphins evolved particularly small (and thus, less sensitive) vestibular systems as compared to other mammals because they have little need to be aware of which way is "up" in the way that land-based mammals do. Three times smaller than similarly-sized mammals, it turns out. Thus, they can now execute impressive barrel rolls and directional changes that would nauseate land-based mammals attempting to replicate them.

Of course, the original student question had nothing to do with dolphins, just motion sickness and weightlessness (which is addressed in the dolphin article to some degree).

If you're looking for a possible cure for motion sickness, this website on motion sickness offers a number of potential solutions, some more extreme than others. I was particularly intrigued by one strategy mentioned by the website: the "Puma Method," which unforunately does not reference the animal, but rather a NASA-employed Dr. Sam Puma. A video below...

Also, according to the website, those wrist bands for reducing motion sickness are probably effective only due to their role as placebos.

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