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Current Studies

These studies are currently being run as part of the Traumatic Brain Injury project. For further information about any of these studies please contact us.

Mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) has typically been considered a relatively benign event, with most evidence indicating that victims experience only a short period of impairment. In children and adolescents, the recovery path is prolonged, with most demonstrating problems for up to 30 days, and 5-10% remaining symptomatic long-term. The cause of these persisting symptoms remains largely unknown. What is clear is that enduring symptoms (fatigue, poor concentration, irritability) have a significant impact on the young person's capacity to return to normal life. While some adjust to these limitations, a significant number will have difficulty and develop depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress. These 'internalized' problems may go undetected and untreated, further impacting the young person's quality of life. This project investigates mental health outcomes in adolescents with mTBI. This data will enhance our understanding of –mental health problems following mTBI and will inform future research into outcomes.

A healthy social life and appropriate social skills are critical to normal development and quality of life, right through childhood and later into life. This study employs a prospective, longitudinal design to investigate the impact of traumatic brain injury on social function. The study documents children's social function for two years post-TBI, focusing on 'functional' outcomes, including social skills, adjustment and participation.

The underlying assumption, based on the social neuroscience and developmental psychopathology literature, is that in the context of childhood TBI, social problems are due to a combination of neurologic, cognitive and psychosocial factors. This study examines brain correlates of social function, using both structural and functional neuroimaging techniques.

Study 1: Social Skills Follow Up Study
Aims to document social function for two years post TBI and investigate the predictors of social outcomes of brain injury.

Study 2: Intervention Studies
Aims to evaluate the impact of both parent and child-based intervention on social problems following TBI.

Study 3: Intervention Studies
Aims too explore the brain bases of social function using structural and functional imaging techniques.

This project aims to interpret an existing intervention program for Australian children and adolescents with an acquired brain injury (ABI). In this study a  course originating from the Netherlands will be translated into English and piloted in a modified format for use by children with a brain injury.

This research will determine suitability of the Signposts program for Building Better Behaviour in assisting parents to manage the behaviour of a child with acquired brain injury. Our research team has supplemented the generic Signposts program by developing a Parent Module specific to acquired brain injury and a Practitioner Facilitation Module.

Our pilot study will test the effectiveness of the adapted Signposts program and gather parent feedback on its feasibility.

Over the past decade, our research team has systematically followed the progress of a sample of children who sustained TBI before 12 years of age. Our findings challenge the traditionally held view that children are resilient and recover fully from early brain insult. Rather, we have found that, up to 10 years post-TBI, many children experience impairments in physical, cognitive, behavioural and social function which continue to impact on quality of life. The implication is that these problems will lead to life-long disability, resulting in high levels of individual, family and community burden.

We aim to improve our understanding of the long-term consequences of childhood TBI by reviewing the same sample of children at 15 years post-injury. This provides us an opportunity to review participants during adolescence/young adulthood, a time of spurt in brain development. This allows for investigation of the impact of this spurt in brain development on long-term outcome and recovery.

This project has an international reputation and is unique in terms of length of follow-up, prospective design and representative sample.

We know that after an acquired brain injury (ABI), some adolescents may experience increased levels of anxiety, especially in social situations. To date, very little research has looked at the ways we can help young people with ABI overcome anxiety difficulties and improve the way they are able to get along with others at school, home and in the community.

We have developed a program for managing anxiety for adolescents with ABI, based on an existing program for a wider adolescent audience called "Chilled." Components of the program have been especially adapted for young people who may have cognitive difficulties associated with ABI (e.g. memory impairments). This study aims to evaluate this adapted "Chilled" program for managing anxiety in a sample of young people who have had an ABI.

Ultimately we will endeavour to reduce anxiety and increase levels of participation in everyday activities of young people following ABI. If effective, the program used in this trial will be developed into a manual, thereby allowing for applicability of the program in a range of therapeutic settings.

The aim of this current project is to develop a questionnaire to measure the social skills and quality of relationships of children and adolescents, between the ages of 5 and 18 years. The questionnaire will have 3 sections, one filled out by each a child/adolescent, parent and teacher. This tool will be helpful to measure the social functioning of 'typical' children who have not had any medical or developmental difficulties. This measure will also be designed to measure the specific social difficulties experienced by children that have suffered an acquired brain injury.

Parental psychological adaption to their child's serious childhood illness or injury has been identified as a significant predictor of child and family psychosocial adjustment both in the short and longer term. A substantive body of research has established that post-traumatic stress symptoms and other psychological symptoms such as depression and anxiety are experienced by a significant subset of parents who have a child with a serious illness.

This study involves the development of evaluation of the "Take A Breath" (TAB) intervention program, a program for parents with children who have serious and life threatening illnesses. TAB aims to help parents to managing the difficult thoughts and emotions that often come with having a very sick child, in order to improve psychosocial outcomes in these parents and families. The study is being run within the Oncology, Cardiology, Intensive Care and Neurology departments.

The first part of our study will explore resilience factors that contribute to good parent outcomes, and risk factors that are related to poor outcomes.

In addition, we will investigate the effectiveness of a screening tool to reliably predict, within the acute phase, which families will have ongoing psychosocial difficulties and require targeted support in the longer term. This screening tool will be investigated across 4 different clinical groups, to determine whether it will generalise across groups, and will therefore be relevant and useful in a hospital setting.

The second part of the study will develop and pilot the "Take A Breath" (TAB) intervention program, designed to improve psychosocial outcomes for parents, children and families.