Fears for student isolated for weeks

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The Independent Online
A student who took part in a university psychology experiment during which she was isolated from the outside world for 25 days, has reportedly been admitted to a psychiatric hospital after suffering panic attacks.

Kate Aldcroft, a final-year anthropology undergraduate volunteered for the experiment at Swansea University's psychology department last September.

She was isolated in a windowless room without television, radio, human contact or means of telling the time. When she emerged, psychologists believed she had "lost" five days from her mental calendar and her biological clock had shifted to a 30-hour day.

Days after the experiment she appeared on television. After the interview she suffered a claustrophobic panic attack on a train.

Believing a passenger had a bomb in a bag, she urged them to throw it out of the window. Although there is no suggestion that her symptoms resulted from the experiment, her family and friends said last night the panic attacks only began afterwards.

A relative at her home in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, who refused to be identified, said Kate had travelled alone in Africa and India and did "not easily panic"; nor did she have a history of mental illness.

Professor Simon Folkard, who ran the experiment, refused to comment but in an interview with the university's magazine, he said: "I feel very upset by what has happened to Kate, but I don't think taking part in the experiment caused it. Over 500 people have taken part in studies of this kind and no one has suffered like this before."

He confirmed the doors were never locked and she was visited every two or three days. Staff first used a one-way mirror to make sure she was not sleeping, showering or completing a computer test. "She had a 24-hour direct line to the university porters and wore a single- worker's alarm which, if primed, would alert us [in] 30 seconds if she fell over," he said.

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