Unique and proven scientific methods

Under the lead of the Human Adaptation Institute, about 40 scientists from 15 institutes and organizations (CNES, IRBA, ONERA, Kaust University, …) are working on different protocols in an integrative and multidisciplinary approach to study climate adaptation.

Our studies are based on three levels of understanding : humans as individuals (physiology, cognition, emotions) being part of a group (organizational system, leadership, interactions), evolving in a surrounding ecology (climate, biodiversity, geomorphology). The aim is to study these three levels in order to understand the mechanics of adaptation.

Research objectives :

– Understand the impact of a new type of climate on humans and the abilities to adapt to change in order to reduce risks to human health.

– To study the group dynamics in a situation of change and the collective skills of cooperation.

– Study the relationship with nature and the ability to project oneself into the future under difficult conditions.

Comprehensive monitoring of the "climatonauts"

The volunteers in the study (“climatonauts”) are scientifically monitored over time in order to study their adaptation. Measurements are first made during several weeks before the first departure in order to determine their “basal” state, i.e. their reference state before any change in their living conditions.

Before and after the return of each field expedition, a series of scientific measurements are carried out in Paris, including MRI (structural and functional) and physiological measurements. These measurements allow the detection of adaptations of the “climatonauts” following the 40 days in each climate. In addition, several protocols are carried out in situ, i.e. during the expeditions, in order to follow the evolution of the climatonauts at the emotional, sensory, cognitive and physiological levels. 

These field data complement the data acquired in Paris before and after the expeditions and allow us to better understand the mechanisms involved in the adaptation in situ. We also observe the “relationship with nature” and the links between people and the territory, in order to observe how the direct environment helps – or not – adaptation. Finally, the “climatonauts” will be followed several weeks after the last expedition in order to study their return to their basal state.

Specific research areas :


We have never before been able to evaluate the psychological evolution of the brain in the face of real and extreme external conditions. We will study attention, episodic/contextual memory, prosociality, executive functions, motivation and cognitive fatigue, among others.

Associated researchers :

Etienne Koechlin, Laboratoire de neurosciences cognitives et computationnelles, ENS

Margaux Romand-Monnier, Laboratoire de neurosciences cognitives et computationnelles, Human Adaptation Institute et ENS

Costantino Balestra, Haute Ecole Paul Henri Spaak – système attentionnel

Mathias Pessiglione, Motivation, Cerveau et Comportement, Institut du cerveau (ICM) – processus motivationnel

Bruno Berberian, Office National d’Études et Recherches Aérospatiales (ONERA)

Cécile Bouvet, Office National d’Études et Recherches Aérospatiales (ONERA)

Brain plasticity

This axis tackles the key issue of the properties of the brain’s neuroplasticity in the adaptation of humans to their physical environment. Indeed, the adult human brain is able to change its structure and extend the functionality of brain networks in response to environmental stresses, both at the gray and white matter level. We will also explore the functional connectivitý of brain regions to each other, i.e., the level of synchronization of their activity, and the potential change in this connectivity as a function of the change in the underlying brain structure.

Associated researchers :

Etienne Koechlin, Laboratoire de neurosciences cognitives et computationnelles, ENS

Margaux Romand-Monnier, Laboratoire de neurosciences cognitives et computationnelles, Human Adaptation Institute et ENS


Study of the impact of extreme climates on physical, metabolic, and cardiovascular properties. The parameters studied include core temperature, cardiovascular function, level of power and adaptation to exercise, energy consumption, and physical performances.

We will also study chronobiology, which is the study of biological rhythms. The majority of the body’s functions, such as sleep/wake alternation, body temperature or hormone production are subject to the circadian rhythm, i.e. a 24-hour cycle. A disorder of these rhythms can therefore have consequences on sleep as well as on metabolism, the functioning of the cardiovascular system and the immune system.

In constraining or extreme environments, the different biological rhythms can be altered in a homogeneous way (e.g., jet-lag) or in relation to each other and thus constitute markers of adaptation or maladaptation of an individual.

Associated researchers :

Philippe Arbeille, Spatial medicine and physiologyresearch unit (UMPS-CERCOM), Faculté de Médecine, Tours– système cardio-vasculaire

Benoît Mauvieux, Vertex Lab, Université de Caen Normandie– physiologie et sommeil

Virginie Gabel, Université de Caen Normandie– physiologie et sommeil

Gut microbiota

This axis focuses on the impact of extreme climatic conditions on the intestinal microbiota. The activities of this complex microbial ecosystem of the digestive tract participate in many aspects of the physiology of the body, such as digestion, regulation of energy metabolism and the functioning of the immune system, but also in the gut-brain axis. As such, it has important effects on brain and behavior.

As the gut microbiota is influenced by many environmental factors (nature of diet, certain drugs, physical exercise, exposure to stressors…), monitoring the evolution of gut microbiota composition and gut barrier permeability could provide interesting and new information about the impact of extreme climatic conditions on microbiota and about the relationship between evolution of microbiota and evolution of brain functions.

Associated researchers :

Gerard Philippe, Micalis,  INRAE

Naudon Laurent, Micalis, INRAE

Rabot Sylvie, Micalis, INRAE

Sensorial processes

This axis focuses on the impacts of extreme climatic conditions on spatial cognition (ability to represent space allowing us to move), perception of time, visual perception, and olfactory perception.

Associated researchers :

Marion Trousselard, Neurophysiologie du stress, Institut de Recherches Biomédicales des Armées (IRBA)

Denis Agostini, CHU de Caen Université de Caen Normandie

Karim N’Daye, Institut du Cerveau (ICM)

Stéphane Besnard, Vertex ResearchLab, Université de Caen Normandie – cognition spatiale

Martin Hitier, CHU de Caen – cognition spatiale

Emotional processes

This axis focuses on assessing the impact of extreme climate environments on emotional behaviors and skills.

Instinctive emotional behaviors optimize the survival capacity of individuals by detecting short-term threats (through sensory organs such as vision, hearing, etc.), and by triggering adapted behavior (defense). A high-risk context, such as the extreme climatic environments of Deep Climate, can modulate sensory integration to optimize threat detection, and selection of an adapted behavioral response.

Emotional skills, considered as an essential factor in interpersonal relationships, will also be studied. They are defined as a set of skills including the recognition of emotions in others and oneself, the understanding of emotions, the regulation of emotions and their management. We will therefore study these emotional behaviors and skills in response to immersion in different extreme environments.

Associated researchers :

Quentin Montardy, Vertex ResearchLab – Université de Caen Normandie

Ben Becker, Neurotherapy & Social Cognition and Affective Neuroscience Lab (neuSCANLab) à UESTC

Didier Grandean, Neuroscience of Emotion and Affective Dynamics lab (NEAD), Université de Genève


Epigenetics is the study of epigenome, which is involved in the regulation of gene expression. Unlike genome, epigenome is very dynamic and can be modified in response to environmental changes. For example, exposure to psychological stress has been shown to be associated with various epigenetic effects, such as accelerated epigenetic aging of the individual. We will therefore study the impact of exposure to various extreme climatic environments on the epigenome.

Associated researcher :

Frédérique Magdinier, Marseille Medical Genetics, Aix-Marseille Université

Organizational and social system

Two main disciplines are studied through this axis : management sciences and ethology.

Management sciences allow to characterize group functioning and its social organization in terms of communication, leadership and coordination and to better understand groupe role and its adaptation in achievement of the objectives of this scientific mission. Ethology allows us to complete this approach by studying the evolution of individuals’ behaviors within the group during the adaptation to a new living environment.

Associated researchers :

Carole Tafforin, Ethospace

Christian Clot, Human Adaptation Institute

Jérémy Roumian, Université Paris 2 Panthéon-Assas, Human Adaptation Institute et Lagerpa

Experiences with nature

Through this axis, we want to study the importance of reconnecting individuals with nature, but especially how the individual experience of nature is integrated into the adaptation process, how these changes are then integrated into the individual identity and how successive experiences of nature across different climates are integrated over time.

Associated researchers :

Etienne Maclouf, Centre d’Écologie et des Sciences de la Conservation (CESCO), Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle

Jérémy Roumian, Human Adaptation Institute, Lagerpa et Université Paris 2 Panthéon-Assas

Territory and climate

We want to study all accessible parameters of meteorology, biodiversity and morphology of the terrain, directly in situ (photographic transepts, allowing to have data on plant species) and using satellites (Airbus).

Associated researcher :

Machon Nathalie, Centre d’Ecologie et des Sciences de la Conservation (CESCO), Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle

Process of adaptation and projection

Through this axis, we will study the different psychological processes of adaptation of individuals through three phases : (1) their preparation and projection before the change, (2) their subjective experience during the change, and (3) their perception after the change, as well as their relationship to freedom in these new environments.

Associated researchers :

Christian Clot, Human Adaptation Institute

Mélusine Mallender, Human Adaptation Institute