Are you reading this in the car right now? Feeling a little sick? You're not alone. Nearly 80% of the general population experiences motion sickness at some point in their life. That's because although humans have changed in many ways over our evolutionary history, our brains still need to catch up to modern travel methods.
That sickly feeling you get reading in a moving vehicle all starts with your thalamus. Neuroscientist Dean Burnett from Cardiff University explains to Melissa Dahl at New York Magazine: "It's the job of the thalamus to interpret all the sensory signals the body sends its way." In everyday life, those sensory signals come from your muscles as you move, your eyes as you observe what's going on around you, and even your inner ear, which contains balance sensors that tell you which way is up and how much you're moving. But when you're reading in a car, your muscles and eyes tell your thalamus that you're sitting still while your inner ear says that you're in motion.