One in five Americans suffer from chronic pain. We are motivated by recent insights in to how the immersive environment of ocean wave surfing appears to give a profound respite from the symptoms of disorders of neural function, including post-traumatic stress disorder. Our prior work has extensively characterized the patterns of neural dysfunction in patients with multiple Chronic Overlapping Pain Conditions(COPCs) and has related these patterns to stress and trauma. Since COPCs can last for decades and are incredibly difficult to treat, our long-term goal is to determine if ocean surfing therapy might improve the symptoms and neurobiology of these conditions. In this pilot project, we aim to build a multidisciplinary team that can use neuroscience and engineering approaches to understand and develop these therapeutic effects.

We will approach this work with two complementary Specific Aims. In Aim 1a, we will address the question of whether 6 weeks of surfing therapy reduces pain and neural dysfunction in patients with COPCs. In Aim1b, we will address how a single surfing session affects well-being and neural connectivity in skilled surfers, to better understand if this approach can continue to promote healthy brain activity. And in Aim 2, we will re-create surfing in an engineered virtual environment, to develop a scientific test bed to identify the source of the therapeutic benefits. Aim 2 directly addresses the emphasis of this call for applications, by identifying lack of ocean access as a barrier to implementation of surfing therapy and testing of a solution to address this problem. The proposed work sets up our newly formed multidisciplinary team to effectively compete for external funding to support a range of large-scale follow-up studies on both the neuroscientific and engineering fronts.

NIH Funding Acknowledgment: Important - All publications resulting from the utilization of SC CTSI resources are required to credit the SC CTSI grant by including the NIH funding acknowledgment and must comply with the NIH Public Access Policy.