What Research in Antarctica Tells Us about the Science of Isolation

What Research in Antarctica Tells Us about the Science of Isolation

As humans grapple with pandemic-induced isolation, science is starting to offer insight into what may be happening in our brains when our social contact with others is dramatically reduced. That insight happens to come from a place with more penguins than people. Tim Heitland of the Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Center for Polar and Marine Research in Germany spent 14 months in Antarctica between 2016 and 2018. The phenomenon is similar to what scientists believe happens to prisoners in solitary confinement, where social isolation and sensory deprivation can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder. Some scientists hope the work will lead to interventions that counteract the damage of isolation before it causes long-term problems.

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