Effects of isolation and confinement on humans-implications for manned space explorations

J Appl Physiol (1985). 2016 Jun 15;120(12):1449-57. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.00928.2015. Epub 2016 Feb 4.


Human psychology and physiology are significantly altered by isolation and confinement. In light of planned exploration class interplanetary missions, the related adverse effects on the human body need to be explored and defined as they have a large impact on a mission's success. Terrestrial space analogs offer an excellent controlled environment to study some of these stressors during a space mission in isolation without the complex environment of the International Space Station. Participants subjected to these space analog conditions can encounter typical symptoms ranging from neurocognitive changes, fatigue, misaligned circadian rhythm, sleep disorders, altered stress hormone levels, and immune modulatory changes. This review focuses on both the psychological and the physiological responses observed in participants of long-duration spaceflight analog studies, such as Mars500 or Antarctic winter-over. They provide important insight into similarities and differences encountered in each simulated setting. The identification of adverse effects from confinement allows not only the crew to better prepare for but also to design feasible countermeasures that will help support space travelers during exploration class missions in the future.

Keywords: circadian rhythm; immunity; psychoneuroendocrinology; space analog; stress.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Circadian Rhythm / physiology
  • Fatigue / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Mental Status and Dementia Tests
  • Space Flight*
  • Space Simulation / psychology*
  • Stress, Physiological / physiology
  • Stress, Psychological / physiopathology*
  • Time Factors