Research ‘In The Field’ and ‘On The Water’

The Movement Science Group at Oxford Brookes University announced plans to work with Alex Flynn and Darren Taylor – aka team Pacific Row 2014 – the Oxfordshire pair set to row the Pacific in the inaugural Great Pacific Race later this year.

The Movement Science Group explores factors affecting optimal human performance in health and disease. They want to investigate how two people cope with the prolonged physical and mental stresses of rowing the Pacific.

Alex – who went to school with Darren – completed the Dubai marathon last month (January 2014). The race marked the conclusion of his solo challenge to run, walk, climb and row 10 Million Metres. To most that would already seem like an incredible feat, made more astounding still by the fact that Alex was diagnosed with Parkinson’s at the age of 36. Recently turned 42, Alex is living proof of the benefits of exercise – and a positive mental attitude – in alleviating the symptoms of this progressive neurological condition.

Professor Helen Dawes hopes to offer further scientific proof. “Anyone involved in sport will know that motor skills improve when you practice a skill and that your motor control is affected when you are tired,” she explains.

“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,” she continues.

Helen, along with Darren, spoke on BBC Radio Oxford on Tuesday 18  February at 3pm. She talked about this new research partnership and explained in more detail how the data gathering will take place and the impact that this research may have in the long term.

This is believed to be the first time that someone with Parkinson’s has performed such a challenge. The Movement Science Group will be able to monitor how both Alex and Darren are responding second by second, utilising Darren as a control subject. This information will help inform research exploring how best to approach exercise and activity for people with Parkinson’s; for example, how to manage medication and nutrition in order to optimise their performance, health and wellbeing.

Billy Connolly“My very best wishes go out to Alex Flynn and Darren Taylor, who will be taking part in the Pacific Rowing Race later this year. Having personally been diagnosed with the early signs of Parkinson’s, my thoughts will especially be with Alex, who has the same disease and will be rowing to help raise awareness via ‘The Cure Parkinson’s Trust’.”
Billy Connolly