Dr. Behrang Keshavarz, a scientist at the KITE Research Institute at UHN, is seeking to put the brakes on motion sickness. (Photo: The KITE Research Institute)

When Dr. Behrang Keshavarz started a postdoctoral fellowship at the KITE Research Institute at UHN in 2012, the team had a specific job in mind for him.

It was developing DriverLab, a driving simulator that includes a 360-degree projection system with immersive view, surround sound and additional features, such as an eye-tracking system and rain simulator. It was the first of its kind in Canada and aids research surrounding safe driving and vehicle collisions.

The team was aware of the potential for research participants to experience motion sickness in these types of simulators, so Dr. Keshavarz was tasked with studying ways to potentially control, or at least minimize, the side effects experienced in these instances.

Over the past 10 years at KITE, Dr. Keshavarz's research footprint has expanded beyond DriverLab, mostly because motion sickness isn't confined to a driving simulator.

Similar issues also occur in StreetLab, another simulator based at KITE's Challenging Environment Assessment Laboratory (CEAL). Users of StreetLab are fully immersed in an audio-visual simulation that replicates downtown Toronto, including cars and pedestrians.

Another lab Dr. Keshavarz works in is called PerceptionLab. It is arguably the simplest of the group, but the most important to Dr. Keshavarz's everyday research.

Screens, projectors and a head-mounted display (virtual reality headset) are available for research use. It's a small but crucial space in the study of motion sickness related to virtual reality and visual stimulation.

"A lot of things I investigate don't necessarily need highly sophisticated or advanced laboratories," says Dr. Keshavarz. "You can induce symptoms in a very simple fashion in an effective way and then try to minimize it."

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