Somatoform & Neurological Disorders

Children with functional neurological symptom disorder (FND) present with disabling physical symptoms such as weakness, paralysis, blindness, deafness, and non-epileptics seizures triggered by physical and psychological stress. Our research program with children and adolescents with FND investigates the neurobiological mechanisms underlying this disorder with the aim of better treatments and recovery. We use a range of research methodologies—structured interviews, EEG, MRI—to look at changes in structure and function in FND.

Our group is also collaborating with Endocrinology and Adolescent Medicine to document the clinical needs and clinical presentation of children and adolescents presenting with Gender Dysphoria.

Current projects

> Somatoform Disorders Research Projects include:

  • Emotional processing in children with medically unexplained symptoms
  • Children experiencing conversion disorder and chronic pain

> Child Protection: Shaken Baby Prevention Projects:

  • Development of videos to prevent child abuse in the form of shaking babies
  • Implementation of learning tools for prevention of shaken baby syndrome
  • Determining how parents can respond to a crying baby in a safe way

The research team

> The Somatoform Disorders Research Team:

  • Dr Kasia Kozlowska, Child Psychiatrist
  • Prof Lea Williams
  • Dr Kerri Brown
  • Dr Loyola McLean
  • Dr Donna Rose
  • Dr Angelique Claussen
  • Helen Doan
  • Samantha Soe
  • Dr Deepak Gill
  • Dr Fiona Davies
  • Blanche Savage
  • Dr Catherine Chudleigh
  • Sue Foley, Senior Social Worker
  • Margaret English

Key publications

Kozlowska K, Palmer DM, Brown KJ, Scher S, Chudleigh C, Davies F, Williams LM (2015) Conversion disorder in children and adolescents: a disorder of cognitive control. J Neuropsychol 9(1):87-108

Kozlowska K, Walker P, McLean L, Carrive P (2015) Fear and the Defense Cascade: Clinical Implications and Management. Harv Rev Psychiatry Jun 9 [Epub ahead of print]

Kozlowska K, Palmer DM, Brown KJ, McLean L, Scher S, Gevirtz R, Chudleigh C, Williams LM (2015) Reduction of autonomic regulation in children and adolescents with conversion disorders. Psychosom Med 77(4):356-70

Kozlowska K (2014) When the lie is the truth: grounded theory analysis of an online support group for factitious disorder. Psychiatry Res 220(3):1176-7

Kozlowska K (2014) Abnormal illness behaviours: a developmental perspective. Lancet 383(9926):1368-9

Kozlowska K, Durheim E (2014) Is bullying in children and adolescents a modifiable risk factor for mental illness? Aust N Z J Psychiatry 48(3):288-9

Kozlowska K (2013) Stress, distress, and bodytalk: co-constructing formulations with patients who present with somatic symptoms. Harv Rev Psychiatry 21(6):314-33

Kozlowska K, Brown KJ, Palmer DM, Williams LM (2013) Specific biases for identifying facial expression of emotion in children and adolescents with conversion disorders. Psychosom Med 75(3):272-80

Kozlowska K, English M, Savage B (2013) Connecting body and mind: the first interview with somatising patients and their families. Clin Child Psychol Psychiatry 18(2): 224-245

Kozlowska K (2013) Functional somatic symptoms in childhood and adolescence. Current Opinion in Psychiatry 26:485-492.