Futura had the pleasure of speaking with explorer Christian Clot, founder of Human Adaptation Institute, in order to learn more about the scientific projects carried out by this research organization and, in particular, on the first results of the Deep Time expedition.
How the human being reacts whenwhen immersed in an extreme environment? Can we act to better adapt to situations that are likely to become more and more common in the future of humanity? All of these questions are among those asked by scientists working for The Human Adaptation Institute, a research institute founded by the explorer . The latter is present at , September 14 for a conference entitled Deeptime: ” Confined for 40 days in a cave, the crazy adventure of Christian Clot ».
Where does this fascination with the study of human capacities come from in extreme situations?
Christian Clot : During my expeditions, I have seen populations confronting, climatic or social crises. Faced with these tragedies, I saw the difficulty experienced by people who were dealing with these situations as best they could. The most amazing thing for me was the way they reacted to the disaster. Once it was over, few solutions emerged to generate changes, adaptations. I wondered why. So I researched the scientific literature on the subject. I noticed that there was hardly any article published on these issues. So I said to myself that we had to study it ourselves.
What do you put in place during your various expeditions to study human physiology and cognition in extreme environments?
Christian Clot : We use a method before, during, after. Since the measurements of the initial stage are difficult to obtain in populations living through real disasters, we carry out our studies with novices, volunteers to go on expeditions. Their initial state is evaluated with standard batteries of tests (medical imaging, biomarkers, psychometric task, etc.) and questionnaires. The same operation is carried out during the expedition if possible, and then after the latter. Finally, we try to detect whether the perceived changes persist over time or whether they are temporary.
Will these experiments give rise to scientific publications?
Christian Clot : The fact that there are no studies from our published work yet is a shame but it is totally normal. This is an area where little similar work exists. Consequently, it was necessary to imagine, develop tools adapted to the field and that took a long time. Now, we have gathered a lot of data which is being analyzed. We have several articles that are in the process of being accepted and more in the process of being submitted. The first publications should see the light of day at the end of 2021 and in the course of 2022.
Tell us about your last experience with the Deep Time project. Where did it take place and what was its objective?
Christian Clot : The expedition took place in Ariège in the cave of, in France. This experience is for me the logical consequence of what we observed during the pandemic: cognitive disorientation, mental fatigue, loss of sense of time, difficulty in projecting oneself into the future, etc. We wondered what had caused all of this. Most of our expeditions having been postponed, we set up a completely timeless mission in France.
With seven women and eight men, we lived in a cave with no time reference. We chose this cave to be connected with ourbase at the institute: to adapt, the situation must make us want to continue living. The cave chosen being a very large place, one could walk there and discover a completely new environment.
From a strictly personal point of view, how did you experience this expedition?
Christian Clot : Much better than I had anticipated. In the literature, the few experiences describing this type of situation report a real difficulty and depressive symptoms. We were quite worried and for the occasion, we had mobilized teams of psychologists and psychiatrists upstream of the expedition. In the end, the strength of the group made it quite pleasant. Once the stress of the first few days was behind us, we had a strong sense of freedom, a functional and collective synchronicity. The cameras filmed everything and the ethologists on our teams will have their work cut out for them (laughs)!
How did the return to “normal” life go?
Christian Clot : I distinguish three main stages. The first one started when we came to pick us up to tell us that it had been 40 days. We didn’t want to go back, we were sad to have to go out and leave the cave. Of course, see theagain did us a lot of good but letting go of the heightened sense of freedom – which is quite paradoxical given that we were locked in – that we had in this place was difficult.
The second lasted for a fortnight. It took a little while to recover. I felt tired, the feeling of having experienced something exceptional and I was completely resistant to going on theor to answer emails! The last step was the return to “normal” life. Some have completely changed their life or place of life, as if the experience had acted as a on what she really wanted.
What’s next for The Human Adaptation Institute ? Are other projects in progress?
Christian Clot : Next year, we will be going on an expedition to four different environments to try to better understand the impact of differenton adaptation mechanisms. This will bring us valuable information to deal with and the future migrations that it will inevitably entail.
We also have a project on women’s freedom in coercive countries. We know that decision making and the feeling of freedom are very strongly related and we want to study what happens in this kind of situation. In addition to the other major missions that we are planning, we are now giving in the transmission. We offer training to help organizations, governments and sometimes companies to better manage crisis situations and promote adaptation.