PARKINSON’S Disease sufferer Alex Flynn is hoping that rowing half way across the Pacific Ocean will help scientists discover more about how sufferers cope with physical and mental stress.
Mr Flynn and Darren Taylor are to undertake the California to Hawaii challenge as part of a university study.
And it is hoped that tests on Mr Flynn and Mr Taylor by Oxford Brookes University scientists will help influence research into how people with the condition should approach exercise and activity.
Mr Flynn, 42, from Goring, was diagnosed with the disease aged 36, and is taking on the 2,900-mile feat later this year with his childhood friend Mr Taylor, a firefighter at Oxford’s Rewley Road fire station.
The pair met at Wallingford School aged 11 and went on to study at Henley College together.
They reconnected years later on Facebook when Mr Taylor heard about the work Mr Flynn was doing for the Cure Parkinson’s Trust.
The Movement Science Group at the university will use Mr Taylor, 41, who does not suffer from Parkinson’s, as a control subject. Both will be monitored second-by-second on the endurance race.
The team hopes that its study will help Parkinson’s sufferers manage their medication and nutrition to optimise their performance, health and wellbeing.
The trip, which could take up to 70 days, has never before been attempted by two British rowers.
They also hope to raise £250,000 for The Cure Parkinson’s Trust and The Fire Fighters Charity.
Mr Taylor, who lives in Charlbury, said: “It is incredible that we are going to be part of something which could potentially help millions of people who suffer with the disease.
“This was never just about raising money, it was always about the bigger picture.
“As far as we are aware, this is the first time this kind of test has been done on someone with Parkinsons, so it is really amazing.
“We are really glad we can work with the university on this.”
Prof Helen Dawes, from Brookes, said: “Anyone involved in sport will know that motor skills improve when you practise a skill and that your motor control is affected when you are tired.
“However, with technological developments we are able to use body sensors to monitor motor skill changes, alongside physiological and emotional responses.
“This will help us to understand how the neuro-muscular system copes and adapts to prolonged stress.”
The pair will set off on June 7 from Monterey Bay in California and row 2,900 miles to Hawaii, taking alternate shifts at the oars.
For more information and to donate, see uk.virginmoney giving.com/team/pacific row2014.co.uk