Video: Antarctica research shows how isolation changes the brain

ac antarctica feat x
Credit: Alexander Stahn/University of Pennsylvania

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. When he returned, daily life felt overwhelming—everything from the colors and vegetation to all the other people. Part of the shock may have come from returning with a different brain than the one he left with.

Follow the latest news and policy debates on agricultural biotech and biomedicine? Subscribe to our newsletter.
Related article:  Electronic paternity tests and other bad ideas before the dawn of the DNA era

While the members of Heitland’s crew conducted research on the earth’s iciest continent, they themselves were also being studied by researchers interested in how extreme work environments trigger neurological changes. The investigation showed that most of the people in Heitland’s team lost volume in parts of their hippocampus, a brain region involved in spatial navigation, learning and emotional processing. 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.

This research appears particularly relevant now, when vast numbers of people are spending more and more time alone. Some scientists hope the work will lead to interventions that counteract the damage of isolation before it causes long-term problems.

Read the original post

Outbreak
Outbreak Daily Digest
Biotech Facts & Fallacies
Talking Biotech
Genetics Unzipped
ft covidresponseus feature

Video: Viewpoint: The US wrote the global playbook on the coronavirus and then ignored it

A year ago, the United States was regarded as the country best prepared for a pandemic. Our government had spent ...
mag insects image superjumbo v

Disaster interrupted: Which farming system better preserves insect populations: Organic or conventional?

A three-year run of fragmentary Armageddon-like studies had primed the journalism pumps and settled the media framing about the future ...
dead bee desolate city

Are we facing an ‘Insect Apocalypse’ caused by ‘intensive, industrial’ farming and agricultural chemicals? The media say yes; Science says ‘no’

The media call it the “Insect Apocalypse”. In the past three years, the phrase has become an accepted truth of ...
globalmethanebudget globalcarbonproject cropped x

Infographic: Cows cause climate change? Agriculture scientist says ‘belching bovines’ get too much blame

A recent interview by Caroline Stocks, a UK journalist who writes about food, agriculture and the environment, of air quality ...
organic hillside sweet corn x

Organic v conventional using GMOs: Which is the more sustainable farming?

Many consumers spend more for organic food to avoid genetically modified products in part because they believe that “industrial agriculture” ...
benjamin franklin x

Are most GMO safety studies funded by industry?

The assertion that biotech companies do the research and the government just signs off on it is false ...
gmo corn field x

Do GMO Bt (insect-resistant) crops pose a threat to human health or the environment?

Bt is a bacterium found organically in the soil. It is extremely effective in repelling or killing target insects but ...
favicon

Environmental Working Group: EWG challenges safety of GMOs, food pesticide residues

Known by some as the "Environmental Worrying Group," EWG lobbies for tighter GMO legislation and famously puts out annual "dirty dozen" list of fruits and ...
m hansen

Michael Hansen: Architect of Consumers Union ongoing anti-GMO campaign

Michael K. Hansen (born 1956) is thought by critics to be the prime mover behind the ongoing campaign against agricultural biotechnology at Consumer Reports. He is an ...
News on human & agricultural genetics and biotechnology delivered to your inbox.
Optional. Mail on special occasions.
Send this to a friend