A friend of mine sent me a link yesterday on how six volunteers allowed themselves to be “shut inside a cell in a nuclear bunker, alone and in the dark” for four days. This article is from a BBC documentary called Horizon: Total Isolation which I have unfortunately not been able to see yet. It is interesting to note that sensory deprivation is sometimes used on prisoners as a means of torture or punishment.
My interest in sensory deprivation probably first started after seeing the film “Altered States“. Although the movie is fictional and many of the hallucinations are brought on by the use of drugs, I did some researched and realized that these hallucinations are possible without the use of drugs. In the movie they use a isolation tank in order to achieve sensory deprivation.
Probably the best explanation I’ve heard on the experience of how it feels to use an isolation tank was done by Joe Rogan [Probably NSFW – due to language]. It interests me in that the experience a user feels is often brought about by their mindset. If a person is being positive they will most likely have a good experience; if they are being negative they will most likely have a bad trip.
On a daily basis we are constantly bombarded with different forms of stimuli. Comedian Doug Stanhope has a rant where he comments on how his attention span is so short and that CNN has two ticker tapes running while a story is going on just because we can’t keep interest. I wonder sometimes if this is true and if it is a reason for so many people on medication for attention disorders or if it is just being over diagnosed. It might just be me but I can remember when I use to be able to sit down and read for a few hours without being distracted or my mind wandering. This coincidentally was also before I had the Internet. Sometimes I wonder if the brain has become in a way addicted to this constant change and if it goes for a certain period of time without any change happening that it does something to achieve it.
It would be interesting to see how most people would react if they were put in a situation similiar to the one in Horizon: Total Isolation. I don’t think many of us realize how hooked up we are and dependent upon outside stimuli and that it probably wouldn’t take us long to crack.