The New York Times - May 24, 1989 • Stefania lived 130 days alone in a sealed cave with no human contact as part of an experiment aimed at examining how the stresses of long-term isolation could affect space travel • When she entered she said “wow, man!” • StefaniaFollini poked her head out of the entrance to the cave and put sunglasses on over her regular glasses to reduce the glare of the bright midday sun. The temperature was 97 degrees, a big difference from the cave's constant 74 degrees • She is a 27-year-old Italian interior decorator • Miss Follini had taken English primers into the cave, and she had apparently learned some of the language in her isolation. She told the crowd, ''I feel great,'' then nodded when asked if she would do it again and said, ''Sure.'' 'Are You Really Serious?'
Researchers spoke with Miss Follini on Monday to announce the end of the experiment, first through messages typed on a computer and then by intercom. • ''Are you really serious?'' she replied through the computer linking her to a house trailer above the cave. • Miss Follini will undergo a series of tests in coming weeks as scientists try to determine what happened to her body and mind in the four months and 10 days she spent 30 feet underground. • In the absence of night, day or timepieces, Miss Follini's menstrual cycle stopped and her sleep-wake cycle changed radically. She tended to stay up 20 to 25 hours at a time, sleeping about 10 hours. • Researchers believe her muscle tone and the level of calcium in her bones is lower, that her immune system is depressed and that she is able to concentrate more deeply.
Miss Follini kept up strength and flexibility by doing calisthenics and judo; she maintained her mental poise by reading and decorating her 10-square-foot plastic-enclosed living area. Time Passed Quickly • Without the sun and other people, time passed quickly for Miss Follini. She believed that two months had passed instead of four and was shocked when Maurizio Montalbini, the experiment coordinator, notified her by computer that the experiment was almost over. • Mr. Montalbini assured her that he was serious, then wrote, ''We will not ask you for any more data.'' She had been asked to perform physical and mental tests periodically. • Then, while journalists watched her on a television monitor, Miss Follini heard a human voice other than her own. It was Mr. Montalbini's. • ''Stefania, I am your God, talking to you,'' he said over an intercom.
She looked at a camera, laughed, and said, ''I didn't think you would find me down here.'' Tests Scheduled • Miss Follini spoke briefly with the other Italian researchers, then remarked that when she heard Mr. Montalbini's voice for the first time, ''the feeling she had was like when the alarm clock goes off on Monday morning,'' Rita Fraschini, an interpreter, said. • On Memorial Day, she is to meet with researchers from the University of Texas Medical School in Houston for electroencephalogram brain scans and performance tests, said Dr. Jon DeFrance, an assistant professor at the medical school. • Dr. DeFrance's team will attach electrodes to her head while she performs computerized tests of mental acuity and concentration. They did similar tests while Miss Follini was in the cave, but in Houston researchers will be able to watch how specific parts of her brain function while she is solving problems. Researchers will perform the same tests again in six months. • Other scientists will monitor her immune system, bones, muscles and coordination.
May 17, 1989 • The only sounds she hears are those of her own voice, her guitar, or an occasional buzzer sounded by researchers in a trailer on the surface. • ''The buzzer is just to get her attention,'' said Rita Fraschini, an interpreter and spokeswoman for Italian researchers who are sponsoring the experiment along with various American universities. • The National Aeronautics and Space Administration, interested in the experiment as a simulation of extended space travel, is helping with blood tests • For about four months, computer terminals have been Ms. Follini's only mode of communication. • A team of researchers monitor her with three video cameras and microphones, and they type in occasional messages to her computer. • They also track her temperature, heart rate and blood pressure and test her blood composition for any hormonal and other chemical changes. Ms. Follini sends up samples daily by means of a cannister on a string. • Questioned May 4, Ms. Follini said she thought it was March 7. However, at a reporter's request, a researcher, Andrea Galvagno, asked Ms. Follini to guess how far off her estimate was. • She guessed she might be two weeks off. • Mr. Galvagno said Ms. Follini would come out of the cave May 23 but would not be told until the day before. • She passes her time reading, strumming, humming, writing messages on the computer and playing chess with herself.
People magazine • Motivated instead by a desire to get to know herself better, she gamely made herself at home 30 feet underground in a constantly lit 10-foot-by-20-foot wood-and-Plexiglas box. Her hideaway included a pair of computers—her only two-way communication link to the surface—a metal folding chair, a bedroll, a two-burner hot plate and a privy. Follini decorated her lair with construction-paper cutouts of grass, a tree and a cat. • For company she had a guitar and more than 400 books • The $200,000 experiment financed by various drug companies and Italian universities, was led by Italian sociologist and psychologist Dr. Maurizio Montalbini, who, with his wife, Antonella, and an assistant Dr. Andrea Galvagno, monitored Follini 24 hours a day from a trailer parked above the cave. Two video cameras and various microphones transmitted Follini's every movement and sound. On occasion Follini sang Italian folk songs or American cowboy music "to keep the people watching company and to make them happy," she says. Montalbini himself holds the world's record for living alone in a cave, having spent 210 days in a cavern near Ancona. Italy, in 1986 and 1987. Follini, who has been a friend of Montalbini's for 10 years, now holds the women's record in this seldom contested event • The project and its findings are already of interest to NASA, which is contemplating a manned mission to Mars that would take at least two years. Cut off from sunlight, Follini's body abandoned nor" mal day-to-day rhythms and switched to an internal clock. Without realizing, she took to staying awake for 24 hours at a stretch, then sleeping for 10. Change in hormonal production caused her to stop menstruating. Time, as she perceived it, ceased to be broken into increments but became "a continuous moment" Follini at times showed signs of mild depression, though nothing serious. She emerged in a good state of mind, which she credits, in part to imagination. "It's important to be able to fantasize," says Stefania, "because it puts you in a different place." Understandably introspective, she feels changed by her time below. "I can do things now I didn't know I could do," she says. Still, she dismisses concern that her contribution to science was an ordeal. "It was," she says, "a very simple thing."
TIME Magazine • Investigators analyzing the blowup of the Challenger shuttle and the disasters at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl have found that in each case, critical errors were made by people struggling with unusual work schedules and lack of sleep. The two nuclear plant accidents happened in the wee hours of the morning. Similarly, most truck wrecks related to fatigue occur between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. "Shift workers classically have to perform when their brains are trying to put them to sleep," observes Dr. Charles Czeisler of Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital. "They are fighting the internal clock." Many workers run on automatic pilot at that time; they execute routine tasks but are unable to process new information, like flashing red lights that signal danger. • More sensible work schedules could reduce such hazards. In a recent eleven- month experiment in Philadelphia, police were put on a revised rotation that meshed better with their innate clocks. The number of days worked consecutively was cut, and the officers were not moved from one shift to another as frequently. Police on the new schedule had 40% fewer patrol-car accidents than before, and their use of sleeping pills and alcohol dropped by half.
Three years in a cave - and trying for six • · Italian sociologist aims for new record underground· Scientists to monitor daily cycles of solitary sojourn • October 13 2006 00.01 BST • Maurizio Montalbini is Italy's least gregarious citizen. The 53-year-old sociologist has distinguished himself by spending almost three years of his life in total on his own and underground.Yesterday Mr Montalbini vanished into the gloom of a pothole near the eastern Italian town of Ascoli Piceno having instructed his support team that, so long as all went well, he should be left undisturbed for another three years. He is already credited with the longest time spent alone underground - more than 12 months between 1992 and 1993. • By spending lengthy periods alone in the dark, Mr Montalbini has helped scientists to explore such riddles as why human beings who are shut away have longer daily cycles. "When I stayed underground for 366 days, I thought that only 219 had passed," he was quoted as telling the daily La Repubblica. • When another Italian hermit, a 27-year-old interior decorator, StefaniaFollini, lived by herself in a sealed cave for 130 days in 1989, she tended to stay awake for 20-25 hours at a time and sleep for about 10 hours. Her menstrual cycle stopped. • Similar experiments elsewhere have led to psychological complications and, in one extreme case, a suicide.
Mr Montalbini plans to while away his time in the "Grottafredda" (literally Cold cave) at AcquasantaTerme. His support team has created a 10-square-metre "home" for him, equipped with running drinking water and an electricity supply to power the array of medical devices that will monitor his physical condition and relay the data to the team on the surface. • At night - or rather, at what he will think is night - Mr Montalbini will be able to snuggle into an enclosed wooden bunk. Most of his nourishment will come from pills and capsules of the sort used by astronauts. But, as a concession to indulgence, he will have with him four kilos of honey, two kilos of walnuts, and one and a half kilos of chocolate. • He was also reported to have a library of 85 books that could be read by the glare of a lamp. • Italy's star loner has been toughing it out at intervals over 20 years. In 1987, at the age of 33, he emerged blinking into the light near Ancona to claim the then world record of 210 days underground. • His last monumental stint of shadowy inactivity lasted until April 16 1998 (which he thought was February 9). Over a period of 166 days, he had lost almost two stones and never slept for longer than five hours. • While he was beneath the surface, the area in which his cave was located was shaken by a major earthquake and he admitted to the reporters who greeted him on his emergence that "for the first time, I was frightened". • Asked eight years ago if he preferred life in the cave, Mr Montalbini replied: "Are you trying to be funny? I'm not going back in there. I need the sun. I used to dream about the dawn. It's an experience I would not repeat."