Research Projects

Remediating Disorders of Self-Regulation

Professor Skye McDonald & Professor Robyn Tate

People with TBI demonstrate deficits in self-regulation, affecting control (anger management) and drive (amotivational states). While brain plasticity models predict greater treatment success with early intervention strategies, preliminary evidence supports treatment efficacy in individuals with chronic injuries. This project aims to improve current treatments for disorders of self-regulation, through the use of experimental biofeedback and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) techniques, both of which have emerging empirical support for efficacy.

Treatments for Fatigue, Anxiety and Depression

Professor Jennie Ponsford & Professor Vicki Anderson

This project aims to translate proven techniques from other disciplines, in order to develop superior treatments for fatigue, anxiety and depression in individuals with TBI. Specifically, investigators will examine the use of light therapy to reduce fatigue following TBI, in collaboration with Harvard University and Brigham Young University in the United States of America. Motivational interviewing, adapted CBT, and the Cool Kids social anxiety treatment program will be used to reduce mood disturbances in adults and adolescents with TBI.

Treatment for Self-Awareness

Associate Professor Jennifer Fleming & Dr Tamara Ownsworth

Associate Professor Fleming and Dr Ownsworth are world leaders in the remediation of self-awareness deficits in individuals with TBI. The current project aims to evaluate the implementation of intervention strategies developed by Associate Professor Fleming and Dr Ownsworth, which focus on improving self-awareness of deficits, and fostering self-regulation skills, through activity participation and the determination of optimal timing for delivery of psychological interventions.

Emotion Perception

Professor Skye McDonald & Professor Robyn Tate

Recent studies conducted by Professor McDonald and Professor Tate, in collaboration with McGill University in Canada, are amongst the first to use skin conductance response (SCR) and electromyography (EMG) to prove that people with TBI do not respond normally to emotional material. This project aims to examine whether poor empathy, that is the failure to attend to, be aroused by, or mimic, emotional expression, leads to poor emotion perception.

Speech Production

Associate Professor Angela Morgan

This project aims to use innovative transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), electroencephalography (EEG), structural (e.g. tractography) and functional (e.g. connectivity analyses) neuroimaging approaches to further elucidate the neural correlates of chronic dysarthria, a motor speech disorder resulting from TBI. The collaboration of investigators with leading cognitive neuroscientist, Dr Lieeois, from the Institute of Child Health University College London, is the first of its kind applied to childhood dysarthria, and will generate prognostic factors for speech outcome, and world-first empirical data to inform early identification of candidates in need of timely intervention.

Facilitating Home Life

Professor Vicki Anderson & Associate Professor Cathy Catroppa

Challenging behaviours in children following TBI are a major cause of stress for parents. Professor Anderson and Associate Professor Catroppa have developed Signposts, a cognitive-behavioural intervention to increase parent competence in managing a child’s social difficulties. The current project aims to evaluate the efficacy of an adapted Signposts program, designed specifically for children with TBI.

Facilitating Friendships

Professor Leanne Togher & Professor Jacinta Douglas

Returning to study (school, TAFE, university) following TBI is difficult for the person with TBI, and their peers. This project aims to examine a two-pronged approach to (1) teaching individuals with TBI coping strategies to manage friendships, prior to returning to study, and (2) providing training regarding the TBI-affected person to friends, prior to the individual’s return.

Facilitating Meaningful Occupation

Professor Robyn Tate & Professor Glynda Kinsella

Only 40% of adults, including older adults, return to work after severe TBI, leaving 60% with “free” time, which, for the majority, is not spent in meaningful occupation. As a result, these individuals have limited opportunities to practice, develop and regain social skills. As an innovative first, this project aims to target disorders of drive to enhance efficacy of the Meaningful Occupation Program, designed to increase meaningful, leisure activity.