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TIME IS DOING A NUMBER ON CAVE DWELLER

An isolation researcher thinks she has two months to go in her underground hideaway when in fact there's only one week until she'll see her first daylight since mid-January.

Stefania Follini, a 27-year-old interior decorator from Italy, has been in a two-room, 200-square-foot Plexiglas house under the hills west of Carlsbad since Jan. 13, without sunlight or other ways of measuring time.The only sounds she hears are those of her own voice, her guitar or an occasional buzzer sounded by researchers in a computer-equipped trailer on the surface, 50 feet above her.

"The buzzer is just to get her attention," said Rita Fraschini, interpreter and spokeswoman for Italian researchers who are sponsoring the experiment along with various U.S. universities and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

For about four months, the computer terminals have been Follini's only mode of communication as she simulates what it might be like for space travelers isolated for extended periods.

A team of researchers monitors 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. Follini sends up samples daily in a cannister on a string.

Questioned May 4, Follini said she thought it was March 7. However, at the request of The Associated Press, researcher Andrea Galvagno asked Follini to guess how far off her estimate was. She was not told that The AP was asking or that anybody else was in the trailer.

She guessed she might be two weeks off.

Asked if she meant March 21, she replied in Italian on her keyboard, "About, but I'll celebrate spring a little later."

Galvagno said Follini will come out of the cave May 23 but will not be told until the afternoon of May 22.

Follini wasn't able to keep track of the time by her menstrual cycle because it stopped after she went underground, Galvagno said.