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Well, that's just what old school chums are for, Rob.

FORMER Wales captain Rob Howley yesterday discovered what his brain sounds like as he underwent a series of pre-Kilimanjaro tests.

The Lions star, who is now part of theWales coaching team, is the latest member of the Brains SA Captains Climb to undergo the tests before they attempt to reach the summit of Kilimanjaro next month.

The captains, and othermembers of the team, are taking part in a unique mini-study at the University of Glamorgan which could help future high-altitude climbers.

They will also use the university's state-of-the-art oxygen chamber to acclimatise before they leave for Tanzania in September.

Professor Damian Bailey, who runs the University of Glamorgan's altitude centre, is testing the blood flow to the captains' brains, using an ultrasound scan to find a vessel in the side of the head.

The scanning technique also amplifies the sound of oxygenated blood pulsing to the brain. It is thought measuring blood flow through a particular blood vessel can help to predict who is at greater risk of developing acute mountain sickness.

Acute mountain sickness can quickly develop into the lifethreatening conditions, high altitude pulmonary oedema and high altitude cerebral oedema if not treated by descending to a lower altitude.

Members of the Brains SA Captains Climb team will also be asked to fill in questionnaires about any altitude sickness symptoms while climbing Kilimanjaro.

Howley, 39, said: "Having been speaking to Scott Gibbs and been for a few walks with him while he's been in Wales, my apprehension about the Kilimanjaro climb was building.

"But it has been reassuring to get these tests done, especially as Damian, who did the tests, is an old school friend.

"It's been a great reassurance and I'm looking forward to getting into the oxygen chamber." Prof Bailey added: "As well as a number of baseline tests to assess the general health and fitness of the team members,we are measuring blood flow to their brains, an important issue when they are under the physical and mental stresses of such a major climb.

"This is the preamble to their acclimatisation training in the chamber of our neurovascular research laboratories." The Brains SA Captains Climb is the idea of photographer Huw Evans, whose wife Sue was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2008. It aims to raise pounds 1m for Velindre Cancer Centre's Stepping Stones appeal to improve treatment for patients with lung cancer and fund research into the disease.

To support the Brains SA Captains Climb visit www.justgiving.

com/brainssacaptainsclimb or to donate pounds 2 by text message, text Climb to 70099.

Texts cost pounds 2 plus one standard message from your network provider.

CAPTION(S):

Professor Damien Bailey checks Rob Howley''s brain and heart reaction to high altitude through a series of tests at the University of Glamorgan PICTURE: Richard Swingler [umlaut]
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Aug 5, 2010
Words:468
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