Acquired Brain Injury in Children (ABiC)

Our goal is to improve the lives of children with a brain injury. Brain imaging technologies help us to understand how a child’s behaviour and function relate to brain function and recovery after an injury. Working closely with Queensland Paediatric Rehabilitation Services and the Queensland Cerebral Palsy and Rehabilitation Research Centre enables us to explore new treatments for children and families with a brain injury.

Acquired Brain Injury and Concussion Recovery

Recovery from a brain injury is difficult. Imagine how much more difficult it is in childhood. At a time when so much learning, psychological and physical developments is occurring, a child with a brain injury is faced with relearning old skills as well as trying to learn new things and keep up with his or her friends at school. A brain injury can occur because of accidents, concussion, infection, brain tumours, stroke and other causes. Here is some helpful information for families about recovery after a brain injury.

Visit the Concussion Recovery website


Our research program has a specific focus on recovery from traumatic brain injury and concussion. By increasing our understanding of brain recovery we can improve treatments and rehabilitation therapies.

Mild traumatic brain injury can be loss of consciousness and/or confusion and disorientation shorter than 30 minutes. Symptoms can also include headaches, fuzziness, dizziness, fatigue, and forgetfulness.

Paediatric concussion is a significant public health burden, sometimes referred to as a “silent epidemic”. It affects 1 in 30 children and adolescents before the age of 18 years.  Children with concussion often report post concussive symptoms (PCS):

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Mood disturbance
  • Concentration difficulties that can impact learning
  • Sleep disturbance

Post concussive symptoms are most severe immediately and soon after the incident but it can persist for weeks to months. Most recover easily, however, 15-25% of children with concussion have symptoms that last over a month with a significant impact on their school performance, friendships and family life.  Understanding why some children recover quickly and other takes several months can help pave the way for new advances in treatment and rehabilitation therapies.

Learn more about our current research or email uq_abic@uq.edu.au.

KidStim Lab

The KidStim lab is the first lab in Australia to explore non-invasive brain stimulation (NIBS) in children with brain injury. It opens up an exciting new chapter in treatments for children with persistent problems after a brain injury, as well as children with mood and behavioural problems. NIBS can be used to investigate and treat Persistent symptoms following a concussion  

  • Traumatic Brain Injury
  • Stroke
  • Depression and mood problems
  • Anxiety
  • Autism

What is Non-invasive Brain Stimulation?

According to the International Neuromodulation Society, neuromodulation is technology that acts directly upon nerves. It is the alteration—or modulation—of nerve activity to produce natural biological responses by delivering electrical or pharmaceutical agents (drugs) directly to a target area.

The KidStim lab has state-of-the-art equipment to help us understand brain recovery after an injury including:

  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS ) - A non-invasive procedure that uses magnets held on the outside of the head to stimulate nerve cells in the brain 
  • Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS) - Used to alter the responsiveness of groups of neurons in the brain. For example, it can be used to improve function in stroke and help depression
  • Theta Burst Stimulation (TBS) - Similar to rTMS, TBS is being explored as a faster and easier option to rTMS
  • Neuronavigation - Helps us to accurately track brain function back to your MRI. It helps the accurate placement of the TMS magnets to stimulate specific brain regions
  • Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) - A new technology showing promise in rehabilitation: it delivers low levels of current to improve brain function
  • High-Density Electroencephalography (HD EEG) - Provides high resolution pictures and connectivity maps of brain activity
  • Functional Near-Infrared Spectroscopy (fNIRS) - Using light to show changes in brain blood oxygenation during activities, fNIRS may be useful to track response to treatments 

The KidStim Lab will be using Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) equipment to measure activity and function of specific brain circuits. It uses brief magnetic pulses to stimulate nerve cells and change function in a selected part of the brain. The MRI-strength magnetic field is delivered from a coil placed over the scalp and a changing magnetic field is used to cause electric current to flow via electromagnetic induction. The KidStim laboratory will also be utilising neuronavigation equipment. This technology acts like a GPS system to guide or "navigate” areas of the brain so that we can accurately target TMS treatment.  

To learn more about upcoming studies in the KidStim lab or if you are interested in conducting research in the KidStim laboratory or would like to learn more about collaborating on research, please contact uq_abic@uq.edu.au.

Our research projects

The ABiC group is in the planning phase of cutting edge research, supported through recently awarded grants. 

Clinical trial for children with concussion 

This study is investigating repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS) as potential treatment for children with persistent post-concussion symptom. 

Participants will be randomised to receive either 10 rTMS treatment or sham treatment (placebo/dummy) over 2 weeks, with the option to receive a further two weeks of 10 rTMS treatment sessions. 

Study assessments include advanced brain imaging and activity measurements such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and electroencephalography (EEG), as well as questionnaires to assess well-being and changes in symptoms. 

The study will take place in the KidStim Lab at the Centre for Children’s Health Research. 

Who is eligible to participate? 

  • Children aged 11-18 years with a diagnosis of post-concussion syndrome. 
  • Have two or more symptoms persisting for at least two months. 
  • Children who do not have epilepsy or other seizure disorders. 

To learn more about the study or to see if you/your child is eligible, please contact Rebecca Greenslade on  07 3069 7456 or UQ_ABiC@uq.edu.au.

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Improving Concussion Recovery using Technology and eHealth

Children with a concussion or head injury commonly present to emergency departments in Queensland. This study is looking into ways to improve the care for children following a concussion injury and ensuring that consistent information on recovery is provided to them. This will include investigating whether providing advice and help electronically via the internet (‘eHealth’) is useful to track recovery, and ensure that those children who are slow to recover receive the appropriate care. eHealth can include things like websites and mobile apps.

A vital step in ensuring that we do this correctly is to get feedback from patients (and their families) who have had a concussion injury. We want to know about their experience, satisfaction with care received, and suggestions for management. We will do this through interviews, which can be done face-to-face, over the phone, or via computer videoconferencing. e.g., Skype, Facetime. It is expected that this will take 30-60 minutes.

Who is eligible to participate?

  • Children up to the age of 16 years, and their families
  • Children who have presented to the Queensland Children’s Hospital Emergency Department for their concussion but were not admitted to hospital

It is hoped that research findings from this study will result in children across Australia receiving consistent, evidence-based, quality, and routine care after they sustain a concussion injury, and their recovery will be optimized.

To learn more about the study or to see if you/your child is eligible, please contact Kylie Bradford on 07 3069 7456 or UQ_Abic@uq.edu.au

Our team

A/Prof Karen Barlow
Dr Paul Hopkins Chair of Paediatric Rehabilitation in Acquired Brain Injury
Email: k.barlow@uq.edu.au 

Dr Kartik Iyer
Research Fellow
Email: k.Iyer@uq.edu.au

Ms Hema Moench
Clinical Research Coordinator
Email: h.moench@uq.edu.au

Ms Kylie Bradford
Research Assistant
Email: k.bradford@uq.edu.au 

Ms Rachel Haddow
Research Assistant
Email: r.haddow@uq.edu.au

Ms Rebecca Greenslade
Research Assistant
Email: b.greenslade@uq.edu.au

Ms Jasmine Huang
Research Technician
Email: jasmine.huang@uq.edu.au

 

 

Our publications

Relating brain connectivity with persistent symptoms in pediatric concussion

Persistent post-concussion symptoms (PCS) have a detrimental effect on quality of life and neurodevelopment in children. Targeted therapies to resolve these symptoms are scarce and the link between brain activity, PCS and affected behaviors are relatively unknown. In this study, Iyer et al. reveals the association between brain connectivity and key symptoms and behaviors, such as poor sleep and cognition.

Longitudinal Assessment of Cortical Excitability in Children and Adolescents With Mild Traumatic Brain Injury and Persistent Post-concussive Symptoms

Symptoms following a mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) usually resolve quickly but may persist past 3 months in up to 15% of children. Mechanisms of mTBI recovery are poorly understood, but may involve alterations in cortical neurophysiology. Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) can non-invasively investigate such mechanisms, but the time course of neurophysiological changes in mTBI are unknown.

Blog articles

Concussion in children

Short of wrapping our kids in cotton wool, it’s hard to avoid the bumps and bruises of childhood. But sometimes, a fall at home or a head knock in sport should not be underestimated.  Associate Professor Karen Barlow discusses the signs and symptoms of concussion in children, possible treatments, and the road to recovery.

Read more

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