Comparison of Hemodynamic Brain Responses Between Big Wave Surfers and Non-big Wave Surfers During Affective Image Presentation

Mary Showstark, Ryan Bahadursingh, Sheng Zhang, Adam Fry, Barbara Kozminski, Per Lundstam, David Putrino

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Big wave surfers are extreme sports athletes who expose themselves to life-threatening risk when training and competing. Little is known about how and why extreme sports athletes choose to participate in their chosen sports. This exploratory study investigated potential neurophysiological and psychometric differences between big and non-big wave surfers. Methods: Thirteen big wave surfers (BWS) and 10 non-big wave surfers (CON) viewed a series of images from the International Affective Picture System (IAPS) while undergoing brain functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). The Fear Schedule Survey-III, Arnett Inventory of Sensation Seeking, Discrete Emotions Questionnaire, and Positive and Negative Affect Schedule were also completed. Results: The BWS group demonstrated higher blood-oxygen level-dependent (BOLD) signal change in the insula, visual cortex, and periaqueductal gray, whereas the CON group displayed increased hypothalamus activation in response to high amplitude negative-valence (HAN) image presentation. Psychophysiological interaction (PPI) analyses found CON showed significant interactions between frontal and temporal cortical regions as well as between the hypothalamus and the insula, frontal, and temporal cortices during HAN image presentation that were not seen in BWS. No differences between groups were found in their responses to the questionnaires. Conclusion: Our findings demonstrate significant differences in brain activation between BWS and CON in response to the presentation of HAN IAPS images, despite no significant differences in scores on psychometric questionnaires.

Original languageEnglish
Article number800275
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
StatePublished - 16 Jun 2022


  • fMRI
  • fear
  • psychophysiological interaction
  • surfing
  • threat


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