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Sensory deprivation allows you to cut off the flow of stimuli from one or more senses to a person. This topic can certainly arouse interest: on the one hand, it is said that thanks to sensory deprivation it is possible to completely relax or relieve pain. On the other hand, there are indications that sensory deprivation can lead to various mental disorders.
Sensory deprivationserves to "break away from the world". Probably every human being - after a day full of impressions and obligations - has said that he would like to have at least a moment of peace or an opportunity to completely cut off from reality. Some people find it unrealistic, but thanks tosensory deprivationit is definitely possible.
As sensory deprivation we understand a state in which a person is not acted on by one or more sensory organs. Simple sensory deprivation can be achieved even at home - for example, covering the eyes thoroughly (vision deprivation) or obstruction of the ears (hearing deprivation) is sufficient. It is also possible to deprive oneself of feeling stimuli from the part of much greater senses - for this purpose the so-called deprivation chambers.
Sensory deprivation is an interesting issue, and at the same time it raises a lot of controversy. Supporters of sensual cut-off emphasize that sensory deprivation allows them to enter a state of exceptional relaxation. Its opponents, in turn, point out that sensory deprivation can even lead to … insanity. So who to believe?
Sensory deprivation: history
The beginnings of developing the concept of sensory deprivation date back to the 1950s. The first experiments on how the human mind is affected by cutting it off from external stimuli were carried out on students, chaired by the psychologist Donald Hebb. The subjects spent most of their time lying motionless in their beds. There was minimal lighting in the rooms in which they were located. The students' senses of sight and hearing were cut off: they wore special goggles, and their ears were isolated by special pillows. The sense of touch deprivation was also used in the experiment - the subjectsthey wore special gloves with elongated fingers, thanks to which the feeling of tactile stimuli was also eliminated.
Students did not take part in the research as part of voluntary work - they received remuneration. The rule in this case was simple: the longer they withstand these specific conditions, the more they would get paid. It is understandable that the subjects tried to hold out as long as possible. Unfortunately, it turned out that not everyone could experience sensory deprivation for long: their minds just couldn't take it.
In a similar period, in 1954, the neurophysiologist John Lilly de alt with the topic of sensory deprivation. He developed a technique called Restricted Environmental Stimulation Technique, REST (translated into Polish "Therapy of Limited Environmental Stimulation"). In the case of Lilly's method, sensory deprivation would occur after a person finds himself in a special deprivation chamber. The size of such a device allowed an adult to fit freely in it. The deprivation chamber was filled with a solution of magnesium sulfate at a temperature corresponding to that of the human body. During the stay in the deprivation chamber, a person does not feel auditory, visual and tactile stimuli and - thanks to the properties of magnesium sulphate - he loses the sense of gravity.
Sensory deprivation: potential benefits
Advocates of sensory deprivation and deprivation chambers emphasize many of their potential advantages. According to them, sensory deprivation is a great way to relax, it can be used for meditation, but also to alleviate the course of various he alth problems (such as, for example, chronic pain syndromes).
The mechanism by which sensory deprivation would have such a beneficial effect on the functioning of the human body would be based, inter alia, on stimulating the activity of one of the parts of the autonomic nervous system - the parasympathetic system. The effects caused by this mechanism include :
- stimulating the development of T lymphocytes (which improves the body's immune status),
- dilation of blood vessels (thanks to which, for example, blood pressure is lowered),
- slow heart rate.
During the stay in the deprivation chamber, the release of endorphins, which are generally considered as happiness hormones, is also expected to increase. Endorphins help reduce the level of fatigue, but also have a pain-reducing effect. In turn, the secretion of stress hormones, i.e. cortisol and adrenaline, would be reduced.
Observed duringof sessions in the deprivation chamber, a phenomenon is also a change in the nature of brain waves - people in conditions of sensory deprivation may experience the so-called θ waves (theta). These are not some abnormal brain waves - they physiologically appear in humans before falling asleep and when waking up. There is an opinion that when theta waves occur, people may have increased concentration, acquire new knowledge more easily, or they may be much more creative.
In the deprivation chamber, as already mentioned, the existence of gravity is not felt. Such a phenomenon would have a beneficial effect on the osteoarticular system - such conditions would lead to the relaxation of human muscles and joints, which could benefit people suffering from orthopedic or rheumatological diseases.
With the help of sensory deprivation, attempts were also made to treat problems such as addiction to nicotine or alcohol, but also depression and anxiety disorders. Research on the possibility of using sensory deprivation in the treatment of nicotinism was conducted in the last century by Peter Suedfeld. The participants were divided into two groups: one was experiencing only sensory deprivation, in the other, in turn, messages were broadcast from time to time informing about the harmfulness of smoking. The results obtained by the scientist were quite surprising - namely, the subjects from both groups, after the end of the experiment, had a significantly reduced desire to smoke a cigarette. But how did sensory deprivation led to this - this has not been established.
Sensory deprivation: threats
It would seem that a temporary cut off from the world can only bring benefits. Well, this aspect remains quite debatable - it results from the fact that too long a pause in stimuli can simply harm the human nervous system. The human brain processes huge amounts of information - most likely the amounts larger than the most advanced computers process. In a situation where the brain receives a significantly reduced amount of stimuli (according to some authors, being in a deprivation chamber reduces the burden on the brain with information by up to 90%), this human organ literally starts … going crazy with boredom. Then it comes to the fact that the slightest fluctuations in the concentration of neurotransmitters cause a very strong response of nerve cells. This response can be so strong that a person in conditions of sensory deprivation may begin to experience mental disorders.
The fact that sensory deprivation can lead to disturbances in the functioning of the psyche has already been proven by the first experiencesregarding this aspect. It has been noted that in people who have been in conditions of sensory deprivation for too long, the occurrence of, among others, different content of hallucinations or delusional content. Moreover, some of these people had problems of this nature for some time after they abandoned their sensory deprivation. Other potential psychiatric problems that may be caused by excessive sensory deprivation include depression, clutter of anti-social thoughts or behavior.
Sensory deprivation also interested the world of cinematography. The film Altered States of Consciousness, made in the 1980s, was about a scientist who wanted to test all possible states of consciousness. He took advantage of, inter alia, from sensory deprivation - in the film it finally turned out that the result of the experiments was that the man found himself on the verge of insanity. Such a negative representation of sensory deprivation was the reason for the introduction of a different term for this phenomenon, which was the aforementioned REST.Worth knowing
Sensory deprivation in Poland
Deprivation chambers are available in Poland - sessions with the use of these devices can be used in larger cities of the country, such as Warsaw or Poznań. Is it worth trying this method to relax? The described potential mental problems that appear after staying in conditions of sensory deprivation for too long may be scary, but in the case of the sessions offered, the risk is rather low. These sessions do not last too long - the most popular time of staying cut off from external stimuli is about 60 minutes.