Child Neuropsychology

Child Neuropsychology is the Murdoch Children's Research Institute’s arm of the Australian Centre for Child Neuropsychology Studies and aims to understand the effects of brain injury during pregnancy and childhood. Enhancing the quality of life for children and families with brain injury and developmental disorders is a key focus, seeking to develop and evaluate intervention programs that will enhance clinical practice and maximise medical, educational and psychosocial outcomes.

Child Neuropsychology aims to understand brain behaviour relationships within a developmental context through the development and implementation of innovative and multi-disciplinary research initiatives.

Research conducted by the group has contributed to knowledge about outcomes following brain damage (eg. head injury, stroke, tumours) and conditions influencing brain function and development (eg. ADHD). This research is designed to assist in the identification of children at risk for serious intellectual, educational and social problems resulting from early brain insult and the development and evaluation of interventions for treating these areas.

Read the latest Child Neuropsychology newsletter

Previous editions:

Group Leaders: 
Group Members: 
A/Prof Amanda Wood
Role: 
Principal Research Fellow
Amy Coe
Role: 
Research Associate
Dr Celia Godfrey
Role: 
Post-doctoral Research Fellow
Dr Cheryl Soo
Role: 
Research Fellow
Dr Frank Muscara
Role: 
Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Irene Dinatale
Role: 
Research Assistant (Study Coordinator)
Dr Janine Cooper
Role: 
Honorary Research Fellow
John Dileo
Role: 
Research Associate
Josette Vadala
Role: 
Administrative Assistant
Kate Stephens
Role: 
Research Assistant
Dr Louise Crowe
Role: 
Post-doctoral Research Fellow
Louise Crossley
Role: 
Research Coordinator/PhD Student
Mardee Greenham
Role: 
Research Coordinator/PhD student
Mary Iliadis
Role: 
Personal Assistant to Vicki Anderson
Melissa Lai
Role: 
Research Assistant/Psychologist
Dr Meredith Rayner
Role: 
Honorary Research Fellow
Nick Anderson
Role: 
Research Assistant
Phoebe Kho
Role: 
Research Assistant
Cathriona Clarke
Role: 
Research Assistant
Ali Crichton
Role: 
PhD Student
Alison Schokman
Role: 
Honours Student
Dr Alissandra McIlroy
Role: 
MPsych/PhD student
Amy Brown
Role: 
PhD Student
Anna Cooper
Role: 
PhD Student
Cristine Omizzolo
Role: 
PhD student
Elise Harrison
Role: 
Student
Intan Rianskina
Role: 
PhD student
Kaitlyn Taylor
Role: 
Honours student
Kate Noone
Role: 
Honours student
Kim Mihaljevic
Role: 
Honours student
Jonathan Reyes
Role: 
Honours student
Marta Arpone
Role: 
PhD student
Vanessa Siffredi
Role: 
PhD student
Hannah Korrel
Role: 
PhD student
Emma Thompson
Role: 
Volunteer
Rachael Lyon
Role: 
Volunteer
Selamoglu
Role: 
Volunteer
Bleydy Dimech
Role: 
Volunteer
Harriet Wills
Role: 
Intern
Quirine van Einjdhoven
Role: 
Intern

SONNY
Memory dysfunction has significant implications for the child’s ability to acquire skills and thus lead an independent life. There are limited options available to treat these problems and little is known about treatment effects on brain function. SONNY, a novel computerised virtual reality system to be delivered in the child’s home, was developed by the team, in collaboration with technology company Curve Tomorrow. ‘SONNY’ is attractive to young people, with high engagement compared to traditional techniques. We are conducting a multisite (SONNY vs usual care) clinical trial pre, post, six months post-intervention, with 40 children with brain injury and examining effectiveness for memory, attention and quality of life. This will also explore structural and functional brain changes. The SONNY technology can be generalised to other rehabilitation modalities and learning problems, decreasing family burden, increasing access to rural families and reducing therapist time and costs. Inclusion of neuroimaging contributes to comprehensive understanding of brain plasticity and functional reorganisation.

The PEERS Study: Pediatric Evaluation of Emotions, Relationships and Socialization
Humans are social by nature and a large part of daily life involves social contact – talking, texting, Facebook, etc. Social skills are important for developing satisfying and lasting relationships, which are essential to well-being throughout life. Failure to develop social skills can have significant consequences for developing these important relationships with others. Failure to develop social skills is a key symptom of certain childhood disorders, such as attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Currently there are no comprehensive, well-validated assessments available to measure social impairment, which limits our ability to identify children in need of assistance in developing these core skills.

The PEERS study aims to develop an interactive iPad application to assist in the diagnosis of social impairment. This application will fill a gap in psychological assessment, allowing for early detection of social impairment to identify which children require assistance in developing these skills.

Long-term outcomes from child head injury
Over the last 20 years researchers have been conducting a prospective, longitudinal study which has followed children with traumatic brain injury. This work has confirmed that early generalised brain insult leads to persisting and serious problems across cognitive skills, social competence, mental health and quality of life. While early outcomes are best predicted by severity of injury and age at injury, with increasing time since injury, environmental factors such as socioeconomic status, family function and parent mental health become increasingly important. As a result of these findings we are now developing and implementing parenting interventions to support families to provide the optimal environment to support their child’s recovery.

Health and development following paediatric arterial ischaemic stroke
troke is predominantly viewed as an adult affliction, and is an unexpected diagnosis in childhood, thus causing great confusion and concern. It is one of the top causes of childhood mortality and an estimated 50-90% of survivors suffer significant long-term functional impairments. An unmet need exists for better information regarding long-term recovery, especially in functional domains including adaptive ability, cognition, motor skills, language, social skills and mental health. These functional domains have critical developmental implications and importance for the child’s well-being and quality of life. This prospective longitudinal study is investigating recovery and functional outcomes following stroke in children. Over 60 children have taken part in the study since it commenced in 2007. The initial study focussed on investigating the trajectory of recovery following arterial ischaemic stroke in children over the 12 month period following diagnosis. A second phase of this study has recently commenced with these children being seen again four to six years following stroke to elucidate longer-term outcomes with the aim of identifying early predictors and modifiable factors of functional impairment to provide support and intervention earlier. 

SATI – Managing anxiety in teenagers with an Acquired Brain Injury (ABI)
We know that after an acquired brain injury (ABI), some adolescents may experience increased levels of anxiety, especially in social situations. So far, 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. Researchers have developed a program for managing anxiety for adolescents with ABI. The program is based on the “Chilled” program which previous research has shown to be helpful for adolescents who do not have brain injury. Components of the program have been especially adapted for young people who may have cognitive difficulties associated with ABI (e.g. memory impairments). Using a randomised controlled trial (RCT) design, this study aims to evaluate this adapted program in a sample of adolescents (aged 12 to 19 years) who have had an ABI. If effective, the program will be developed into a manual, thereby allowing for applicability in a range of therapeutic settings.