We require them as much as air and water," says Michael Zigmond, a neuroscientist at the University of Pittsburgh. He and other scientists have drawn attention in recent years to the effects of solitary confinement on people's brains, minds and behavior. In , Zigmond and his colleagues studied how mice and rats respond to both isolated and enriched environments.
For the latter, they grouped 14 mice or six rats in a meter-wide cage with toys, mazes, tunnels and places to climb; this was meant to simulate what a natural rodent society might be like. They found that the isolated rodents tended to have brains with smaller neurons, with fewer branches in regions like the hippocampus and cerebral cortex, which are involved in learning, memory, perception and executive brain functions.
The amygdala, which influences feelings of fear and panic, was an exception, showing more activity. Rats and mice share about 99 percent of the same genes as humans, so Zigmond believes his research is very relevant to human prisoners. In a new study published in March, another group of researchers spoke with recently released prisoners and found that those who spent time in solitary were more than two and a half times more likely to show post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms.
These include things like numbness or detachment, nightmares, angry outbursts and avoiding situations that trigger memories of the event. He also saw a correlation between solitary confinement and suicide attempts. Does age affect the severity of those effects?
Can they be reversed? The next step in the research is figuring out whether these changes can be reversed. Share this Facebook Twitter Email. Brought to you by The Pulse. The Pulse Go on an adventure into unexpected corners of the health and science world each week with award-winning host Maiken Scott. More segments from The Impact of Isolation Listen. How extreme isolation affects the brain You may also like. About Liz Tung Read more. Thursday 2 July Friday 3 July Saturday 4 July Sunday 5 July Monday 6 July Tuesday 7 July Wednesday 8 July Thursday 9 July Friday 10 July Saturday 11 July Sunday 12 July Monday 13 July Tuesday 14 July Wednesday 15 July Thursday 16 July Friday 17 July Saturday 18 July Sunday 19 July Monday 20 July Tuesday 21 July Wednesday 22 July Thursday 23 July Friday 24 July Saturday 25 July Sunday 26 July Monday 27 July Tuesday 28 July Wednesday 29 July Thursday 30 July Friday 31 July Saturday 1 August Sunday 2 August Monday 3 August Tuesday 4 August Wednesday 5 August Thursday 6 August Friday 7 August Saturday 8 August Sunday 9 August Monday 10 August Tuesday 11 August Wednesday 12 August Thursday 13 August Friday 14 August Saturday 15 August Sunday 16 August Monday 17 August Tuesday 18 August Wednesday 19 August Thursday 20 August Friday 21 August Saturday 22 August Sunday 23 August In all cases, it is important to ensure that those prisoners who are confined in segregation are monitored closely and effectively for any sign of psychological deterioration.
Further, the American Civil Liberties Union, which advocates against the use of solitary confinement, has issued a report about the experiences of women inmates. We welcome feedback. Please contact us here. Republish This Article. Citation: Venters, Homer; et al.Apr 22, · At the very least, solitary can certainly make prisoners much more of a danger to themselves. Inmates in solitary, for example, have been found to engage in self-mutilation at rates .