Spending a Few Months In Antarctica Can Shrink Your Brain

Call it the ultimate brain freeze. Researchers have discovered that living at a lonely research outpost in Antarctica for more than a year shrinks the human brain. It’s not the temperatures as low as -58º that do it, but rather the social isolation of living with just eight co-workers and the day-to-day monotony of being surrounded by miles and miles of whiteness. Communication with the outside world is extremely limited, and while there’s an Internet connection, it runs via satellite and the bandwidth is very low. There’s hardly any privacy and there's no escape from the daily reality of life in the Antarctic. Even emergency evacuations are limited to certain times of the year and are nearly impossible during the eight months that make up the Antarctic winter. Studies have shown that the brains of those assigned to the outpost shrink an average of 7.2%, a figure that’s normally associated with those who have Alzheimer’s disease or PTSD. Researchers are currently looking at ways to combat the isolation on the brain, possibly through exercise, diet, or nutritional supplements.