The Brain, Sensory Deprivation and Isolation

The Brain, Sensory Deprivation and Isolation

2008, Psychology  -   51 Comments
Ratings: 7.70/10 from 73 users.

ALONE - The Brain, Sensory Deprivation and IsolationYou are about to witness a controversial experiment, One that delves deep into the human brain.

Six ordinary people will face total sensory deprivation, all in the name of science.

We live in a dangerous era were solitary confinement and sensory deprivation are sometimes used as punishment even as political tools.

Yet scientists just beginning to investigate the impact of total isolation on the mind.

Using the latest technology and a all to real simulation, scientists hope to answer a question as old as imprisonment itself.

What happen inside your brain when you are left truly ALONE?

More great documentaries

51 Comments / User Reviews

  1. Shado

    I think this is more of torture than experiment. I believe that if you let go of your mind and just experience the stillness, or darkness or whatever you subject these people into, they can actually survive it in a positive way. To think, this is only 48 hrs, you sleep for 16 hrs, so you have 32 hrs left. There are so many activities or thoughts that you can do for that 32 hrs: music, dancing, drumming, reciting a poem, etc. etc. etc. then do it again the next day. Then the 32 hrs is over. And by the time it's over, you are better in all those activities, like better in drumming or dancing or have composed a song or poem.

  2. BH

    Fascinating findings, I found the data result in percentage value helpful, and the lack of concrete results afterward with arguable subjective or ambiguous adjectives (i.e. badly, markedly,, etc.) disappointing. Overall, that felt less like journalism and more like "entertainment," though maybe those terms are common in findings so I digress, this is my subjective review... it has at least inspired me to research journals and studies to learn more about executive functioning results, suggestibility, and differences in men and women. Certainly a seemingly thorough and concise insight which I appreciate.

  3. Karen

    I did 48hr of sensory deprivation in Guatemala recently…total darkness, no human contact. 2 vegetarian meals a day. I intended to do a week. I came out early. it was numbing to not have something to experience. it was not emotionally damaging and I believe the difference between my experience and a prisoner in isolation is the degree of willingness, just as I believe the experience of not eating in starvation vs voluntary fasting is willingness.

  4. ri

    who is the director of this documentary

  5. Janice?

    People often do the same thing to their pet parrots when they leave them in their cage without changing out their toys, feeding them the same food and not spending the time they deserve.
    Really sad.??

  6. June

    Your article has so many misspellings and other grammatical errors, I cannot believe a word you've typed. Nor do I put any trust whatsoever in your "documentary" as I now believe it is fake, staged. Learn to type. Too, not To. An, not a. Etc. Wow. So ignorantly written.

  7. David

    Isolation is only difficult to the mind.

    There were mystics, hermits, and monks throughout history who spent years wandering the hillside and residing in caves who were completely alone, meditating and contemplating their true nature. If you identify with the restless mind, it's no surprise isolation will be difficult.

  8. rosa

    This is exactly what some ppl are doing to animals.

  9. DefinatelyNotNSA

    I feel like if i was in this experiment i would just sleep and imagine pleasant things.

  10. Guillaume Duquette

    It is very sad that in this day and age the militairy keeps pushing experiment of this nature under the desgise of science. The poeple facilitating these experiment should be ashamed of themselfs.

  11. Burpeeblast

    Audio gets way out of sync eventually, but good documentary nonetheless.

  12. pukeluke

    its bolex, in there sub conscious mind they know there going home safe/not going to be tortured, its completely different to forced isolation and depravation,so **** there subjects and the bbc!!!

  13. okay

    I would have rather they focused a bit more on the people that DID manage to handle it and how they did it.

  14. Giacomo della Svezia

    Fascinating documentary, though I would have liked to hear more details on how the deprivation of their senses changed their mental faculties.

    The man innocently incarcerated in isolation shows the importance of having at least a humane way of punishing convicted people. What he had to endure is a form of torture, from which he will never recover. I hope he got some compensation for that.

  15. Katie Highfield

    I think those isolation effects become more pronounced through long term incarceration. This was two days, so I think they should be fine, no long term damage, a lot of people actually choose to do this for a week or so on buddhist type retreats, which consists of no speaking and minimal exposure to external stimuli and report the benefits of it.

  16. vlad

    There are looooooooooooooooooooots of lonely people that are isolating themselves in their houses for years and for that they lose all contact with reality and after years of isolation they will just realise that they got serious brain discorders. And what is the government doing???? NOTHING.
    there should be a serious government organization that will help lonely people to meet other lonely people. Loneliness can kill this is not something to play
    this is not a game. Loneliness decrease intelligence, work, and EVERYTHING.

    1. jefferson Blake Davis

      I do not agree that the government is doing nothing. They are using these techniques in "prisons" plus the millions of pounds of aluminum
      and barium being dumped into our air while our water is poisoned with fluoride compounds. The government is very busy.

    2. Jackson

      that's dumb. Lonely people often do that themselves. There are suicide prevention resources but someone still has the make the choice to get those resources. Drug addicts must want to get better. In that same way, lonely people have to put in some effort. The government has bigger problems then lonely people. It is not their job to do this and there are already dating sites. Even if there was such a organization it would only be able to help those who seek them out. However, China had an issue with their fertility rate ( basically the babies being born). This is bad since their future working class may not be large enough to support older citizens. China has government programs to try to get singles together. I did not do much research on it , but I don't think it was very effective if I remember

  17. Jax Rousseau

    Did anyone else wonder how they ate?

    1. juliocesarvillegas1

      They didn't it was only 2 days. you can live without food and water for longer than that.

  18. shaneScallan

    dam lefties and their end of the world rethoric

    1. Russ101

      damn righties and their 'damn lefties' *rhetoric* :p

    2. Jean-Pierre Tardif

      And also damned are those stupid ecologistS-alarmists about these climat change lies. These lies, is they are not uncovered someday might be the cause of the biggest human crisis ever.

  19. That One Chick

    I'm interested to see how the subjects were psychologically a week, month and even six months after this experiment was completed, and whether their careers and hobbies changed.
    Notably absent from the film was a control group.

    1. Neal Boyd

      ...wouldn't the control group be people who aren't alone?

  20. Michael Withington

    Definately must be hard for people they lock up to deal with it for years. Especially Guantanamo Prisoners and others in worsening conditions of violence and deprivation routines becoming more and more accepted by societies in the west, "us" & "them" mentality. Make up a good enough reason to hate a people and we all start to look more like Hitlers people supporting a mad group of leaders,who only care for is $$ Curuption! We all live with that Human Deprivation everyday.

    1. bringmeredwine

      And they're STILL in Guantanamo,its been 10 years now,
      Can you imagine?

  21. zaphodity

    What happens ?...You go mad, that's what happens. Regardless of whether your a loner or just hate people, humans are social animals and total isolation and sensory depravation can turn you into a C-RAZZZYYYY BOY !

  22. henrymart81

    LOL @ guy singing

  23. Angelica Guerrero

    How did they not masturbate?

    1. ChocoPsych

      Because they were deprived of porn.

    2. Guest

      @ ChocoPsych
      Best avatar EVER!

    3. Jackson

      First, they probably did not have enough stimulation. Second, they knew they were being monitored. Third, the researchers could have purposeful y removed that from this video

  24. Angelica Guerrero

    It would be nice if I could watch this in full screen. -___-

  25. WildKat

    I'd like to respond to comment #12 (by dkhan).

    Blind people still listen to tv, movies etc. we also generally use laptops for all of our notes in school from a very young age and continue using computers more than sighted people throughout our lives. We use screen reading programs that vocalize what is happening and learn to touch type just like anyone else would.

    Blind people can do a lot more than we are generally given credit for. Just because someone closes their eyes and think "OMG I can't do anything" doesn't mean someone who has no vision can't. We learn to adapt or find technology to help us live life and do whatever we want to do.

    The most irritating thing in life is when people just jump to conclusions because they assumed things instead of simply asking how something is done, so I am glad you asked instead of leaving a comment calling me a "liar" etc. like happens so often...

    1. Katie Cupcake

      thank you so much for that comment WildKat! I am blind as well and I was thinking the exact same thing when i read the comment below. we really can do so much more than normally sighted people give us credit for.

  26. dkhan

    to wildcat,

    how were you able to watch this even though ur blind and how were you able to write, or how were you able to express the following statement: "I couldn’t operate an mp3 player or read Braille anymore and TV was over $10 a day so the only sensory stimulation I had was the distant sounds every so often and the nodding of my head." even though you were blind from birth?

    please explain?

    1. DJ Comatoast

      He listened to it! and he typed it with voice recognition software!

  27. Bytor69

    My heart goes out to you and your struggles within this thing we call life. I couldent imagine the depths of emptiness and aloneness you must have experienced. To go through something like that must surely have a reward somewhere in the future for you. If not in this life, the next forsure. I can only say that when I read your comments I could only think of what a brave person you must be and how strong your mind must be from going through such an ordeal.
    From my heart to yours I wish you only the very best in the future. God bless.

  28. Artist

    wow, I tried Dunkel theraphy. 1 week in solitary dark place without any sensory stimuly and it was awesome. Maybe it is because I meditated most of the time I was awake and played in lucid dreams during sleep.

    Another problem might be strenght of mind and ego. Ego constantly needs stimuly otherwise it deminishes and a person will slowly loose mind, unless you let go and learn how to cope with it.

    Of course, 1week is nothing compared to couple months, I believe even experienced monk used to hermits life would start loosing mind.

  29. WildKat

    This documentary is very interesting! I majored in Psychology in University, and it's a bit intriguing to me because I've been totally blind since birth, and in 2004 became a quadriplegic and lost movement and feeling in most of my body. I can feel from my shoulders up fine, but I can only feel the fronts of my upper arms and an area near my thumbs but can only sense pressure. Not temperature or pain.

    When I was in the hospital for 8 months the daytime wasn't too bad, but at night when I was laying in bed in a private room at the end of a hallway only hearing the distant beep of monitors etc. I have to admit it wasn't easy by any means! I noticed after awhile that I was nodding my head a bit but never knew exactly when I started doing it.

    A lot of blind kids (and some adults) rock back and forth for stimulation, but I never did this until the nodding. I couldn't operate an mp3 player or read Braille anymore and TV was over $10 a day so the only sensory stimulation I had was the distant sounds every so often and the nodding of my head.

    Even when I use noise canceling headphones now I get a slight feeling of panic like I am being totally cut off from the world until I turn the music on.

    It doesn't seem like that big of a deal until you experience it, and I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy!

    1. DJ Comatoast

      Wow I can sooo understand what you mean by only sense pressure, not temperature or pain and would add to that the sense of wetness in my case. I broke my neck and thank goodness I recovered quite well but I still cant feel any of those senses on left half of my body from mid chest down. However right side of me is hypersensitive. Weird how our bodies process information. Not to be too graphic but its such a complete split between sides it even splits my privates. My right side that is hypersensitive has spasms all the time especially if I am tired or don't eat well. I commend you! I'm glad you have internet access and lots of things to do online!

    2. Bradley

      Hi WildKat.

      I've been blind all my life and use screen readers, NVDA and voiceover on my phone.

      How do you type things if you can't feel your fingers? Or can you feel just in a different way to me?

      I understand if you can't answer this question, as it's been a very long time since you replied to this documentary but I thought i'd ask anyway.

  30. Joshua

    The point of the white noise is randomness. In a scientific context the term "noise" refers to a patternless set of data, in this case sound. The brain craves patterns and constantly seeks them out as a way to understand what is going on in the immediate environment, and to assess threats or sustenance. This is why we see danger in shadows or faces in clouds (the human face is our favorite pattern). When being exposed to only white noise there would be *nothing* interesting for the brain to pick out of the background.

    I too could not help but wonder how they were eating and using the bathroom. I guess the point is not absolute sensory deprivation (probably not even possible), but to simulate the isolatory conditions that prisoners face.

    What it was that commenter Unzar Jones found to be "leftist moralizing" is utterly incomprehensible. I'd say he picked a pattern out of the noise: we often see what we expect to see, even when it isn't there.

  31. Steve

    It's not a sensory overload, it's white noise - a constant, ever present noise. Sometimes, having no change in noise is worse than having no noise at all because it fills in the spot where you would otherwise hear things like breathing, electricity in your head, and the like.

  32. Unzar Jones

    An interesting documentary.

    If they have to LISTEN to white noise, wouldn't that be an overload of one sensory channel?

    clray had some valid questions. Maybe they ate oatmeal(without milk or sugar) and pooped in the dark.

    This otherwise excellent documentary was dragged down by leftist moralizing.

  33. Jenn

    Just the very thought of such an environment scares the s*** out of me. I'm the kind of person that has to always be doing something, whether it be listening to music, reading, watching TV, whatever.

  34. clray

    So... the big question remains - what did they eat/drink and how did they use the toilet?

  35. kaz

    wow. just watching this really scared me. i doubt i would even be able to get through 5 hours without completely breaking down mentally, let alone 48 hours. and beyond that, i don't even want to think about those hostages and inmates who have been kept in total isolation for days, months, years on end. it must have been so utterly horrifying.
    excellent documentary.

  36. Laurie

    Thanks for sharing those studies. This is very interesting and done well.

  37. brain cancer

    Thanks for sharing your views on the impact of total isolation on the mind. Specially the video presentation was excellent and it clearly shows that people when they are totally isolated have great impact on their mind.