Sensory deprivation or perceptual isolation is the deliberate reduction or removal of stimuli from one or more of the senses. Simple devices such as blindfolds or hoods and earmuffs can cut off sight and hearing, while more complex devices can also cut off the sense of smell, touch, taste, thermoception (heat-sense), and 'gravity'. Sensory deprivation has been used in various alternative medicines and in psychological experiments (e.g. with an isolation tank).
Short-term sessions of sensory deprivation are described as relaxing and conducive to meditation; however, extended or forced sensory deprivation can result in extreme anxiety, hallucinations, bizarre thoughts, temporary senselessness, and depression.
A related phenomenon is perceptual deprivation, also called the Ganzfeld effect. In this case a constant uniform stimulus is used instead of attempting to remove the stimuli; this leads to effects which have similarities to sensory deprivation.
Sensory deprivation techniques were developed by some of the armed forces within NATO, as a means of interrogating prisoners within international treaty obligations. The European Court of Human Rights ruled that the use of the five techniques by British security forces in Northern Ireland amounted to a practice of inhumane and degrading treatment.
There are two basic methods of restricted environmental stimulation therapy (REST): chamber REST and flotation REST.
In chamber REST, the subject lies on a bed in a completely dark and sound-reducing (on average, 80 dB) room for up to 24 hours. Their movement is restricted by the experimental instructions, but not by any mechanical restraints. Food, drink, and toilet facilities are provided in the room and are at the discretion of the tester, who can communicate with the participants using an open intercom. Subjects are allowed to leave the room before the 24 hours are complete; however, fewer than 10% actually do because they find the chamber so relaxing. Chamber REST affects psychological functioning (thinking, perception, memory, motivation, and mood) and psychophysiological processes.
In flotation REST, the room contains a tank or pool. The flotation medium consists of a skin-temperature solution of water and Epsom salts at a specific gravity that allows for the patient to float supine without worry of safety. In fact, to turn over while in the solution requires "major deliberate effort." Fewer than 5% of the subjects tested leave before the session duration ends, which is usually around an hour for flotation REST.
For the first 40 minutes, it is reportedly possible to experience itching in various parts of the body (a phenomenon also reported to be common during the early stages of meditation). The last 20 minutes often end with a transition from beta or alpha brain waves to theta, which typically occur briefly before sleep and again at waking. In a float tank, the theta state can last for several minutes without the subject losing consciousness. Some use the extended theta state as a tool for enhanced creativity and problem solving. Spas sometimes provide commercial float tanks for use in relaxation. Flotation therapy has been academically studied in the US and in Sweden with published results showing reductions of both pain and stress. The relaxed state also involves lowered blood pressure, lowered levels of cortisol, and maximal blood flow. Apart from physiological effects, REST seems to have positive effects on well-being and performance.
Several differences exist between flotation and chamber REST. For example, with the presence of a medium in flotation REST, the subject has reduced tactile stimulation while experiencing weightlessness. The addition of Epsom salts to attain the desired specific gravity may have a therapeutic effect on hypertonic muscles. Since one of the main results of chamber REST is a state of relaxation, the effects of chamber REST on arousal are less clear-cut, which can be attributed to the nature of the solution.
Also, due to the inherent immobilization that is experienced in flotation REST (by not being able to roll over), which can become uncomfortable after several hours, the subject is unable to experience the session durations of chamber REST. This may not allow the subject to experience the changes in attitudes and thinking that are associated with chamber REST. Additionally, the research questions asked between each technique are different. Chamber REST questions stemmed from research that began in the 1950s and explored a variety of questions about the need for stimulation, nature of arousal and its relationship with external stimulation. Practitioners in this area have explored its utility in the treatment of major psychiatric dysfunctions such as substance abuse. On the contrary, flotation REST was seen as more of a recreational tool as it was tested more for its use with stress-related disorders, pain reduction and insomnia.
Numerous studies have debated which method is a more effective treatment process, however, only one has explored this statistically. Nineteen subjects, all of whom used chamber or flotation REST to induce relaxation or treat smoking, obesity, alcohol intake or chronic pain were analyzed. The statistic of interest, d, is a measure of the size of the treatment effect. For reference, d=0.5 is considered a moderate effect and d=0.8 a large effect. The 19 subjects who underwent chamber REST had d=0.53 and six flotation REST subjects showed d=0.33. Additionally, when examining subjects undergoing REST treatment and REST in conjunction with another treatment method, there was little difference. However, Flotation REST has the advantage of a lower duration required (45 minutes as opposed to 24 hours).
The use of REST has been explored in aiding in the cessation of smoking. In studies ranging between 12 months and five years, 25% of REST patients achieved long-term abstinence. REST, when combined with other effective smoking cessation methods (for example: behavior modification) resulted in long-term abstinence of 50%. Also, when combined with weekly support groups, REST resulted in 80% of patients achieving long-term abstinence. Comparatively, the use of a nicotine patch alone has a success rate of 5%.
Alcoholism has also been the target of research associated with REST. In conjunction with anti-alcohol educational messages, patients who underwent two hours of REST treatment reduced alcohol consumption by 56% in the first two weeks after treatment. The reduction in consumption was maintained during follow-ups conducted three and six months after the first treatment. It is, however, possible that this is caused by the placebo effect.
In addition, REST has been tested to determine its effect on users of other drugs. A University of Arizona study used chamber REST as a complement to traditional outpatient substance abuse treatment and found that four years later, 43% of the patients were still sober and drug-free. Eight months later, no one in the control group remained clean.
Studies have been conducted to test the effect of sensory deprivation on the brain. One study took 19 volunteers, all of whom tested in the lower and upper 20th percentiles on a questionnaire which measures the tendency of healthy people to see things not really there, and placed them in a pitch-black, soundproof booth for 15 minutes, after which they completed another test that measures psychosis-like experiences, originally used to study recreational drug users. Five subjects reported seeing hallucinations of faces; six reported seeing shapes/faces not actually there; four noted a heightened sense of smell, and two reported sensing a "presence of evil" in the room. People who scored lower on the first test experienced fewer perceptual distortions; however, they still reported seeing a variety of hallucinations. Many studies have been conducted to understand the main causes of the hallucinations, and considerable evidence has been accumulated indicating that long periods of isolation aren't directly related to the level of experienced hallucinations. 
Schizophrenics appear to tend to experience fewer hallucinations while in REST as compared to non-psychotic individuals. A possible explanation for this could be that non-psychotic individuals are normally exposed to a greater degree of sensory stimulation in everyday life, and in REST, the brain attempts to re-create a similar level of stimulation, producing the hallucinatory events. According to a 2009 study published in the Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, the hallucinations are caused by the brain misidentifying the source of what it is currently experiencing, a phenomenon called faulty source monitoring. A study conducted on individuals who underwent REST while under the effects of Phencyclidine (PCP) showed a lower incidence of hallucination in comparison to participants who did not take PCP. The effects of PCP also appeared to be reduced while undergoing REST. The effects PCP has on reducing occurrences of hallucinatory events provides a potential insight into the mechanisms behind these events.
The five techniques of wall-standing; hooding; subjection to noise; deprivation of sleep; deprivation of food and drink were used by the security forces in Northern Ireland in the early 1970s. After the Parker Report of 1972, these techniques were formally abandoned by the United Kingdom as aids to the interrogation of paramilitary suspects.
The Irish government on behalf of the men who had been subject to the five methods took a case to the European Commission of Human Rights (Ireland v. United Kingdom, 1976 Y.B. Eur. Conv. on Hum. Rts. 512, 748, 788-94 (European Commission of Human Rights)). The Commission stated that it "considered the combined use of the five methods to amount to torture." This consideration was overturned on appeal, when in 1978 the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) examined the United Nations' definition of torture. The court subsequently ruled that the five techniques "did not occasion suffering of the particular intensity and cruelty implied by the word torture," however they did amount "to a practice of inhuman and degrading treatment," which is a breach of the European Convention on Human Rights, Article 3.
It their judgment the court states that:
José Padilla, a United States citizen from Brooklyn, New York, was convicted in federal court of aiding terrorists in 2007 and was sentenced to 17 years and 4 months in prison. While awaiting trial, reports surfaced that, to persuade him to reveal information, he was subjected to sensory deprivation for weeks at a time. For 1,307 days, Padilla was kept in a 9' x 7' cell with no natural light, clock or calendar. When Padilla left his cell, he was shackled and fitted with heavy goggles and headphones. His counsel argues that while he was being interrogated Padilla was subjected to harsh lights and pounding sounds. While meeting with his counsel, they reported Padilla exhibiting facial tics, random eye movements and unusual contortions of his body. According to them, Padilla had become so "shattered" that he became convinced his lawyers were part of a continuing interrogation program and saw his captors as protectors.
In January 2008, the BBC aired a Horizon special entitled "Total Isolation". The premise of the show centered on six individuals, four men and two women, agreeing to be shut in a cell inside a nuclear bunker, alone and in complete darkness for 48 hours. Prior to isolation, the volunteers underwent tests of visual memory, information processing, verbal fluency and suggestibility.
After the two days and two nights, the subjects noted that their inability to sense time, as well as hallucinations, made the experience difficult. Of the six volunteers, three experienced auditory and visual hallucinations—snakes, oysters, tiny cars and zebras. One was convinced their sheets were wet. Two seemed to cope well.
When complete, the tests that the subjects took before the experiment were conducted a second time to test its effects. The results indicated all volunteers' ability to complete the simplest tasks had deteriorated. One subject's memory capacity fell 36% and all the subjects had trouble thinking of words beginning with a nominated letter; in this case, the letter "F". All four of the men had markedly increased suggestibility, although this was not the case with the women.
"It's really hard to stimulate your brain with no light. It's blanking me. I can feel my brain just not wanting to do anything."
— Adam Bloom (volunteer subject) — "Total Isolation"
Altered States is a 1980 American science-fiction horror film directed by Ken Russell based on the novel of the same name by playwright and screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky. The film was adapted from Chayefsky's only novel and is his final screenplay. Both the novel and the film are based on John C. Lilly's sensory deprivation research conducted in isolation tanks under the influence of psychoactive drugs like mescaline, ketamine, and LSD.
It marked the film debut of William Hurt and Drew Barrymore. Chayefsky was credited as a screenwriter for the film using the pseudonym Sidney Aaron, his actual first and middle names.
The film score was composed by John Corigliano (with Christopher Keene conducting). The film was nominated for the Academy Awards for Best Original Score and Best Sound Mixing.Bondage hood
A bondage hood (also called a gimp mask or bondage mask) is a fetishistic hood. It may be made from rubber, latex, PVC, spandex, darlexx or leather. Full-faced hoods are typically used for the practice of head bondage, and to restrain and objectify the wearer through depersonalization, disorientation and/or sensory deprivation.The use of bondage hoods can be hazardous if breathing is impeded.Bondage hoods are frequently referenced in popular culture, most notably in the film Pulp Fiction.Cross modal plasticity
Cross modal plasticity is the adaptive reorganization of neurons to integrate the function of two or more sensory systems. Cross modal plasticity is a type of neuroplasticity and often occurs after sensory deprivation due to disease or brain damage. The reorganization of the neural network is greatest following long-term sensory deprivation, such as congenital blindness or pre-lingual deafness. In these instances, cross modal plasticity can strengthen other sensory systems to compensate for the lack of vision or hearing. This strengthening is due to new connections that are formed to brain cortices that no longer receive sensory input.Don Henrie
Don Henrie, also known as "The Vampire Don", is likely known for his role in the short-lived SyFy reality show Mad Mad House, which first aired March 4, 2004. Prior to this, he worked nights as a micro electronics engineer in San Diego.
Henrie has gone on to pursue a television career as well as modeling on a casual basis. He is currently on the roster for Exile Asylum, a developing agency that promotes gothic and alternative models.
Henrie has fibromyalgia and sleeps in a coffin as a means of sensory deprivation to help relieve some of the pain and sensitivity associated with the condition. Henrie also prefers to stay away from sunlight as he claims to get sun poisoning easily.Ganzfeld effect
The Ganzfeld effect (from German for "complete field"), or perceptual deprivation, is a phenomenon of perception caused by exposure to an unstructured, uniform stimulation field. The effect is the result of the brain amplifying neural noise in order to look for the missing visual signals. The noise is interpreted in the higher visual cortex, and gives rise to hallucinations.It has been most studied with vision by staring at an undifferentiated and uniform field of colour. The visual effect is described as the loss of vision as the brain cuts off the unchanging signal from the eyes. The result is "seeing black", an apparent sense of blindness. A flickering ganzfeld causes geometrical patterns and colors to appear, and this is the working principle for mind machines and the Dreamachine. The ganzfeld effect can also elicit hallucinatory percepts in many people, in addition to an altered state of consciousness.
Ganzfeld induction in multiple senses is called multi-modal ganzfeld. This is usually done by wearing ganzfeld goggles in addition to headphones with a uniform stimulus.
A related effect is sensory deprivation, although in this case a stimulus is minimized rather than unstructured. Hallucinations that appear under prolonged sensory deprivation are similar to elementary percepts caused by luminous ganzfeld, and include transient sensations of light flashes or colours. Hallucinations caused by sensory deprivation can, like ganzfeld-induced hallucinations, turn into complex scenes.William G. Braud with Charles Honorton were the first to modify the ganzfeld procedure for parapsychological use. The effect is a component of the Ganzfeld experiment, a technique used in the field of parapsychology.Imbas forosnai
Imbas forosnai, is a gift of clairvoyance or visionary ability practiced by the gifted poets of ancient Ireland.
In Old Irish, Imbas imeans "inspiration," and specifically refers to the sacred poetic inspiration believed to be possessed by the fili (Old Irish: inspired, visionary poets) in Early Ireland. Forosnai means "illuminated" or "that which illuminates". Descriptions of the practices associated with Imbas forosnai are found in Cormac's Glossary and in the mythology associated with the hero Fionn mac Cumhaill. Imbas forosnai involved the practitioner engaging in sensory deprivation techniques in order to enter a trance and receive answers or prophecy.
In the Celtic traditions, poetry has always served as a primary conveyance of spiritual truth. Celtic texts differentiate between normal poetry, which is only a matter of learned skill, and "inspired" poetry, which is seen as a gift from the gods.
Some Celtic Reconstructionists are involved in the revival of the practices connected with Imbas forosnai.Isolation tank
An isolation tank, often referred to as a sensory deprivation tank (also known as float tank, float pod, float cabin, flotation tank, or sensory attenuation tank) is a pitch black light proof, soundproof environment heated to the same temperature as the skin. The tank is filled with 10 inches of water which contains enough dissolved Epsom Salt to create a specific gravity of approximately 1.275. This environment allows an individual to float effortlessly on the surface of the water. The primary function of the isolation tank is to eliminate as many of the external senses as possible. They were first used in 1954 to test the effects of sensory deprivation. Flotation tanks are widely advertised as a form of alternative medicine but beneficial health effects are unproven.Ka ʻōwili ʻōka’i
"Ka ʻōwili ʻōka’i" (Hawaiian for: "Cocoon") is the first episode of the ninth season of Hawaii Five-0. It aired on September 28, 2018. The episode was written by Leonard Freeman & Peter M. Lenkov and was directed by Bryan Spicer. In the episode Steve is captured and placed in a sensory deprivation tank while the rest of the team attempts to rescue him. The episode is a remake of the 1968 episode of the same name.Leo Goldberger
Leo Goldberger (born June 28, 1930) is a psychologist, author, and editor known for his work in sensory deprivation, personality, stress and coping, as well as for his writings on the rescue of the Danish Jews during the Holocaust., A professor emeritus of psychology at New York University (NYU), Goldberger is a former director of its Research Center for Mental Health.Make Room for Lisa
"Make Room for Lisa" is the sixteenth episode of The Simpsons' tenth season. It first aired on the Fox network in the United States on February 28, 1999. In the episode, while visiting the Smithsonian expedition, Homer Simpson meets a businesswoman who convinces him to build a cell phone tower in the Simpsons house, making it take up Lisa's room. Lisa is forced to share Bart's room, but the stress of living in the same room as Bart gives her stomach aches. Homer and Lisa decide to visit a New Age store, where the owner convinces them to go on a spiritual journey by lying in a sensory deprivation tank for a prolonged amount of time.
"Make Room for Lisa" was written by Brian Scully and was the first full The Simpsons episode Matthew Nastuk directed, having received a co-director credit for "D'oh-in' in the Wind", for which he directed one scene. The episode's subplot, which revolves around Marge listening in on phone calls using a baby monitor, was inspired by former showrunners Bill Oakley and Josh Weinstein, who also listened to private phone calls with a monitor. The episode contains references to the American sitcom All in the Family, and advises children to be accepting of their parents. In its original broadcast, the episode was seen by approximately 7.6 million viewers, finishing in 52nd place in the ratings the week it aired. Following the home video release of The Simpsons - The Complete Tenth Season, "Make Room for Lisa" received mixed reviews from critics.Marvin Zuckerman
Marvin Zuckerman (March 21, 1928 in Chicago – November 8, 2018) was Professor Emeritus of Psychology at the University of Delaware. Zuckerman is best known for his research into the psychobiological basis of human personality, sensory deprivation, mood state measurement, and sensation seeking. His work was particularly inspired by eminent research psychologists, Hans Eysenck (3rd most highly cited psychologist) and Arnold Buss.Oneirophrenia
Oneirophrenia (from the Greek words "ὄνειρος" (oneiros, "dream") and "φρήν" (phrēn, "mind")) is a hallucinatory, dream-like state caused by several conditions such as prolonged sleep deprivation, sensory deprivation, or drugs (such as ibogaine). Oneirophrenia is often confused with an acute case of schizophrenia due to the onset of hallucinations. The severity of this condition can range from derealization to complete hallucinations and delusions. Oneirophrenia was described for the first time in the 1950s but was studied more in the 1960s. Although it is still cited in diagnostic manuals of psychiatry, such as DSM-IV and in the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD), oneirophrenia as a separate entity is out of fashion nowadays.Philip Solomon
Dr. Philip Solomon (April 16, 1907 – May 31, 2002) was an American psychiatrist and researcher.
A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Harvard College (1927) and Harvard Medical School, Solomon served as a Commander in the U.S. Navy attached to the sixth Marine division during World War II as the Division Psychiatrist. He was Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and Physician in Chief of Psychiatry at Boston City Hospital from 1952 until 1969. He founded the College Mental Health Center in Boston in 1968. In 1969, Solomon moved to La Jolla, California where he served as Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the UCSD Medical School.
His fields of research included electroencephalography, sensory deprivation, alcoholism, suicide and other clinical subjects. His publications number over 200, including several books.
Married three times with three children, Dr. Solomon was preceded in death by his first wife, Sarah "Pebbles" Gelman Solomon (of Hartford, Boston, Los Angeles and Houston), his second wife U.S. Senator Maurine Brown Neuberger and survived by his third ex-wife, Dr. Susan Thurman Kleeman of Boston; son, fine art photographer Andrew L. Solomon, and Andrew's wife, Dana Donsky Solomon, Esq, of Houston; two daughters, music and popular culture critic Linda Solomon of Houston and Susan Thurman Solomon of Boston; stepson, Jeffrey Thurman Kleeman of Los Angeles; grandsons, Rex Solomon, and Rex's wife Margaret Ann Solomon, Esq, and great grandson Dylan Chase Solomon, of Houston, and cinematographer Keith Solomon and his wife, and two great granddaughters of Los Angeles.Photopsia
Photopsia is the presence of perceived flashes of light. It is most commonly associated with posterior vitreous detachment, migraine with aura, migraine aura without headache, retinal break or detachment, occipital lobe infarction, and sensory deprivation (ophthalmopathic hallucinations). Vitreous shrinkage or liquefaction, which are the most common causes of photopsia, cause a pull in vitreoretinal attachments, irritating the retina and causing it to discharge electrical impulses. These impulses are interpreted by the brain as 'flashes'.
This condition has also been identified as a common initial symptom of Punctate inner choroiditis (PIC), a rare retinal autoimmune disease believed to be caused by the immune system mistakenly attacking and destroying the retina. During pregnancy, new-onset photopsia is concerning for severe preeclampsia.
Photopsia can present as retinal detachment when examined by an optometrist or ophthalmologist. However, it can also be a sign of uveal melanoma. This condition is extremely rare (5–7 per 1 million people will be affected, typically fair-skinned, blue-eyed northern Europeans). Photopsia should be investigated immediately.Psychonautics
Psychonautics (from the Ancient Greek ψυχή psychē "soul, spirit, mind" and ναύτης naútēs "sailor, navigator" – "a sailor of the soul") refers both to a methodology for describing and explaining the subjective effects of altered states of consciousness, especially an important subgroup called holotropic states, including those induced by meditation or mind-altering substances, and to a research cabal in which the researcher voluntarily immerses themselves into an altered mental state in order to explore the accompanying experiences.The term has been applied diversely, to cover all activities by which altered states are induced and utilized for spiritual purposes or the exploration of the human condition, including shamanism, lamas of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, sensory deprivation, and archaic/modern drug users who use entheogenic substances in order to gain deeper insights and spiritual experiences. A person who uses altered states for such exploration is known as a psychonaut.Rubber's Lover
Rubber's Lover (ラバーズ・ラバー) is cult filmmaker Shozin Fukui's 1996 follow-up to 964 Pinocchio. Like its predecessor, it is an underground Japanese cyberpunk film, with tense atmosphere, alarming visuals and graphic violence.
Often interpreted as a semi-prequel to 964 Pinocchio, Rubber's Lover details a clandestine group of scientists who conduct psychic experiments on human guinea pigs they take from the streets. Using brain-altering drugs, sensory deprivation and computer interfaces, they subject their patients to gruesome scientific tortures that often end in brutal death. After continued failure, they pursue one last project - which yields dangerous results.
Rubber's Lover can best be defined as Japanese cyberpunk and industrial noir, in the same vein as Tetsuo: The Iron Man. Filmed in stark black and white, located in a setting of grim urban steel, steeped in machine aesthetic, driven by a kinetic style and empowered by a grinding metallic soundtrack, it draws on nightmarish horror and generates heavy fetishcore themes.Stress and duress
Stress and duress is a term which has been used by the United States to describe interrogation techniques authorized for use by the United States Armed Forces upon detainees who are determined to be a threat to the United States during the War on Terrorism. These techniques are claimed to cause "inhuman and degrading treatment" but which the George W. Bush administration claims do not cause "suffering of the particular intensity and cruelty implied by the word torture".White torture
White torture is a type of psychological torture that includes extreme sensory deprivation and isolation. Carrying out this type of torture makes the detainee lose personal identity through long periods of isolation.