Experiments in Solitude

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    65. Lilly, John C. and Jay T. Shurley. 1961. "Experiments in Solitude inMaximum Achievable Physical Isolation with Water Suspension of Intact HealthyPersons." (Symposium, USAF Aerospace Medical Center, San Antonio, Texas,1960.) in Psychophysiological Aspects of Space Flight. Columbia Univ. Press,New York. P. 238-247

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    WITHHEAUTHOR'SOMPLIMENTS

    I ; c.-.iReprinted fromi Psychophysio2ogical Aspects ofSpace ~lightCopyright 0 Columbia University Press, 1961

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    Ex~eriments in Solitude, in ~aximum AchievablePhysical Isolation le~ilhWater Sus~ension,ofIntact Healthy Persons

    JOHN C. LILLY and JAY T. SHURLEY

    Originally, one of the aims of this investigation was to test theneurophysiological hypothesis that, in the drastic attenuation ofphysical stimuli below the usual level, the activity of the brain andits contained mind would be that of sleep. Findings in our experi-ments (1, 2) and in those of other groups (3, 4) in this field demon-strate that sleep is not necessarily the outcome over a short timeperiod. A parallel, though not identical, aim was to observe what,if any, effect such experimental conditions might have in alteringego function both in the present moment and over the longer timeperiod; i.e., ego choices and ego structure. A more specific aimhas been to establish methods ofself-observation by finding, defining,and setting limits for the subject's psychological sets for these experi-ments and by seeking those sets which would give the maximum ofinformation from the subjective sphere. The collection of data hasbeen mainly by notes and recordings by the subject alone.

    At the outset two conditions seemed essential, and these have beenmaintained throughout. All observers first prepare themselves byparticipating as subjects; those who participate in this experimen-tation first do so in the role of subj ect, then in the role of "safety man''(observer), and, finally, in the role of self-observer in solitude. Thesecond crucial condition is that of the restrained and minimalparticipation of the "safety man"; his role is to stay out of and notinterfere with the phenomena which occur in the self-observer.

    Dr. Lilly was Chief, Section of Cortical Integration, Neurophysiological Laboratory,Research Branch, National Institute of Mental Health, Bethesda, Md. He is now Directorof the Communication Research Institute, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. Dr. Shurleyis on the staff of the Veterans Administration Hospital, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

    T~I-i!~C. I_IBLV, M. D.a:CFJ TvlAil~HIGHWAYCOCONUTGROVE, FLA.

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    ExperimentrlnSoliluO 239TECHNIQUE

    A systematic consideration of the technique illustrates how theseaims are carried out in this particular set of experiments.

    Tl~ePhysical-Physiolo~ical LevelI i. The simultaneous attenuation of all known external physicalstimuli to the lowest possible level (including light, sound, odor,taste, light pressure, deep pressure, and other gravity-opposition

    forces, vibration, heat, cold, etc.). These characteristics of theexperimental environment were achieved with relative success byuse of a water immersion tank in a soundproofed chamber.

    2. The maximum simultaneous attenuation of intra-integumen-tary sources of stimuli which, in the order of importance in ourexperiments, have included low-level pain and discomfort because ofan unsatisfactory position in the tank; muscle stretch; slow motionsof limbs moving through the water; internal sources such ashunger; fullbladder; fullrectum; gas in the GI tract; unusuallyactive cardiovascular system; local pressure ischemia leading topain; irregular changes in respiratory rhythm, rate, or depth;accumulating carbon dioxide; reduction in oxygen.

    3. The maintenance of a constrained and restrained situationvoluntarily: Obviously in a system such as the human body,

    ;; efferent activity leads to afferent activity in a continuous andcircularashion; hereforen suspensionn a liquid he subjectsinstructed to voluntarily inhibit movement, including vocalizations,to his maximum ossible bility.4. Special aseofskin emperatvre:Wehave ound hat thermaldifferencesover the skin of the body are intensely stimulating whenthe other sourcesof stimuli have bees attenuated. The use of watersuspension tin which the water is slo~vly lowing by the body) allows

    an isothermicity of the unclothed skin surface which is difficult toachieve by other methods. At 34.5" C. (94.1"F.) the water seemsto disappear in the thermalsense; i.e., the subject feels neither hot3 norcold, nd his emperaturellows steady tateofheatexchangeat a constant normal body temperature at the reduced level ofmetabolism that can be achieved under these conditions. Inaddition, the slowly flowing water allows continuous removal of

    Si waste products of the body.

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    240 Lilly and S~i~urley5. Thepositionndsuspensionf hebodyn water:Becausehebody parts are not of uniform densityt is necessaryo add weight ocertainparts and to add buoyancyor support to certain other parts.These additions are done in such a way as to avoid chronic low-level discomfortand pain caused by unusualdegreesof angulationof spinal or otherjoints and that caused by pressure ischemia.We found that the position of the body of each subject must bevery carefully worked out in order to avoid low-level discomfort andpain. Unless this is done wt. found that we were studying the effectsof a chronic low-levelpain on our subjects in a relative absence ofother sources of stimulation. If a given subject s exposed o toomuch pain for too long a period, he experimentecomesxtremelydistasteful to him. We do not feel that we have found the idealj' method of buoyancydjustment, and that a good deal more workcould be done on this

    phase f the experiments,ossiblyy usingjlj1 liquids of two densities,one for the limbs and one for the chest andi head, r,possibly,yusing .liquidf greater density than the freshii waterwhichwehave een sing. n summary,ater uspensionallowsostf he ravity-opposingorcesobedistributedvenly1! overhewholeurfacef hebody;husheunit ressuresgreatlyjlJ decreased ver any one area. Becausefresh water of the properi: temperatureas vailable, eused his iquid.:i 6. The mask: Since the subject s suspendedn the liquid,i breathingequiresmask ith ertainharacteristics;a)minimumill inwardressuresverhe urfacesf he kin,b)maximumealingwithoutndueocalressure,c)minimumlowesistance,d)mini-mum dead space, (e) minimumack- r fore-pressureuring herespiratory cycle, and (f) as great a degree of equalization of thepressure in the mask with hat over he chestas can be achieved.Ani1i/ approximation o the last requirement can be reached if the subject is1 thoracic and abdominal walls while reathing ir at oneatmospheresuspended just below the surface of theiquid with his chest parallelto that surface so as to minimize pressure difference across thei from he room. Suchan apparatus as the virtueof extremeiji simplicityndmaximumontroly he ubject.We ave mployeda throug-h-and-throughreathingystem ~ith an Inspiratory valveI and an expiratoryalvewith wodifferenttubes (Figure 4) eadingto hemallpaceapproximately00c)n hemaskmmediately; i

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    Figure . Underwaterask 2~anufacture Figure2. Underwater~ask 2~anPositive plaster cast of one subject's head and neck Dipping form for one subject (J.L.). (J.S.), with spaces over eyes, nose and mouth, and bandage cast (negative) is made from thears filled in, and (bakelite) tubing in place. Note reproduction of the head and neck castinsInooth surface from which later casts in plaster or with a separating agent. Inside this negalatex may easily be separated. fiberglas cloth and resin is inserted to copositive reproduction shown in this figurewhite areas between nose and chin are

    for positioning the two tubes shown inThe two halves of the fiberglas reproduassembled and fastened together with fiband resin, and finally sanded. A base wfor a 75-watt heating lamp is inserted in

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    Figure 3. UnderwaterMask Manufacture II Figure 4. UnderwaterMask ManThe dipping form: mask insert in place on the face. This is a finished mask formed by (Heating lamp is lighted.) The mask insert is built shown in Figure i, which does noof Fiberglas on the dipping form with latex as the Lucite window before the eyes--noteseparating agent. The inspiratory and expiratory tube connected on one side. Note atubes (stainless steel) and the window (Lucite) are folds of latex at the neck which seainserted and embedded in the Fiberglas at the proper without undue constriction ofsubject's stages; three layers are built up. This form is is donned simply by pulling down oveseparately dipped into latex, put on the head- as a stocking would be. In place, it form, and the assembly dipped to generate the head closely, is smooth and is complethead mask (three to five layers of latex suffice), able, even for long time perioThe finished mask is covered with talcum powderand pulled off the form from bottom to top and

    back to front.

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    Experiments in Solitude 2~3~3in front of the nose and the mouth, breathing air at one atmospherefrom the room. This system can be easily repaired by the subject anddoes not require as much maintenance as a more complicated,continuously flowing gas system at a higher pressure. However,again, we do not consider this ideal, and woul