"Avatar is asking your eyes to fuse and do the extra work for two hours and 40 minutes. It's not surprising there are some unhappy with [their] experiences," Salz added.
The brain is further confused by conflicting input from different parts of the body -- the eyes, the pressure receptors on your extremities and the vestibular system in the inner ear, explained Dr. Robert Wiprud, an associate professor of family and community medicine at Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine and director of family medicine at the Scott & White Clinic in College Station, Texas.
The vestibular system includes hair cells resting in fluid that detect sound and head movement. "When we move in a certain direction, the fluid moves the hair cells, creating an electrical impulse that travels along the eighth cranial nerve to the brain, and the brain can tell if you're sitting still or moving forward," Wiprud explained.
"Most of the time, all that information adds up and makes sense to your brain," he said. "But when you go to a realistic 3-D movie, you get a conflict between what the eyes are seeing and what the vestibular system is sensing. Your eyes are telling you that you're flying through the air while your vestibular system is saying, 'No, we're just sitting here.' It gives you a false sense of movement which, in people who are sensitive, can lead to nausea and headache."
"Your brain hates conflicting signals. A regular movie doesn't fool your eyes as much," said Wiprud, who has avoided seeing Avatar for fear of the consequences.
Die-hard movie fans might benefit from dramamine or other motion-sickness medications, or you could take it as a clue that your eyes need a full exam, Anshel said.
For now, you still have to go to a theater to ex
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