On this page we are highlighting current research projects in the area of Functional Neurological Disorders in Australia and New Zealand. If you want to find out more about any of the trials please follow the links below. If you are researcher and want your project added to the website please contact the webmaster on info@fndaustralia.com.au.
Dr Toby Winton-Brown and his team at The Alfred are conducting a randomised controlled trial and are recruiting individuals with a documented diagnosis of functional seizures (PNES). Participants can reside anywhere in Australia as the trial is being conducted over Telehealth. For further information, contact Dr Tobias Winton-Brown at The Alfred Functional Seizures Clinic at epilepsy@alfred.org.au or Lana Higson at lana.higson@monash.edu. Trial details can be found on the ANZCTR website: https://anzctr.org.au/Trial/Registration/TrialReview.aspx?id=383157&isReview=true The team is expecting to recruit participants until March 2023.
Sara Issak and her team at the University of Melbourne are conducting a research study investigating functional gait disorders. This is an online survey among people with functional gait disorders looking at a varitey of motor and non-motor symptoms and to explore their frequency, extent, as well as their impact on walking, participation in daily tasks, and quality of life. The team also examines if these symptoms change over the period of one year, and if they improve or worsen during that time. For more information please visit: https://redcap.healthinformatics.unimelb.edu.au/survey/?s=LMYLK3P83E. If you are interested in being part of this study, or have any further questions please email: sara.issak@student.unimelb.edu.au. Please also see the information flyer by clicking on the above title link.
Functional movement disorders (FMDs) are complex conditions at the interface of neurology and psychiatry and they often pose a diagnostic challenge for clinicians. FMDs are still one of the most common reasons for referral to movement disorder specialists, with frequencies ranging from 15% to 33%. Even specialists often struggle to differentiate FMDs from organic disorders. This fear commonly leads to unnecessary expensive laboratory and imaging tests, which cause even more delay in diagnosis (although an early diagnosis is one of the strongest prognostic factors for good outcomes in FMD patients). Over the years several associated features from patients’ history have shown to be suggestive for FMDs. For this international prospective multi-centre study Dr. Lehn’s group in Brisbane teamed up with the movement disorders team at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. They are planning a total of over 500 patients and expect to find several associated factors to be discriminative between FMDs and non-FMDs. This will hopefully allow them to develop a prediction model based on these factors to greatly aid diagnostic processes in the future. The TASMAN study team are currently recruiting patients for this study – for more information please contact Dr. Alexander Lehn on email: alexander.lehn@health.qld.gov.au or Dr.Tjerk Lagrand on email: t.j.lagrand@umcg.nl
Persistent postural-perceptual dizziness (PPPD) is a vestibular disorder within the spectrum of functional neurological disorders, which causes chronic, fluctuating non-vertiginous dizziness. PPPD is one of the most common causes of chronic dizziness in the age group from 20-50 years. Ideally, PPPD requires multimodal treatment including communicating the diagnosis, cognitive-behavioral therapy, the use of medication, and vestibular rehabilitation. Currently, access to psychological treatment in Australia is limited, and therefore there is a need to study alternative therapeutical options. Vestibular rehabilitation is a treatment that combines physical movements with exposure to different sensory inputs to reduce symptoms and improve balance problems. One of the key concepts in rehabilitation for PPPD is habituation: reducing patients’ systems responsiveness to motion stimuli in order to reduce the symptoms of dizziness. Part of the intervention is to perform exercises that include visual-vestibular and/or somatosensory-vestibular conflict. Patients can be asked to perform exercises in visually complex or visually impoverished environments. Virtual Reality (VR) is a technology using electronic devices, such as special goggles with a screen or gloves fitted with sensors, so a person can interact in a simulated virtual space. VR’s unique ability to provide deep immersion to its users in controlled environments has significant potential in training simulations, medicine and debilitating conditions amenable to self-therapy. It has been shown already that VR-based therapy has similar positive effects on short-term term outcome in patients with vestibular disorders. For this reason, VR simulations might have the potential to be an efficient and effective adjunct to vestibular rehabilitation in patients with PPPD. For this study the FND research group in Brisbane are collaborating with the RECOVER Injury Research Centre at the University of Queensland. The aim of the study is to assess the potential benefits of combining vestibular exercises with exposure to different levels of visually virtual environments in patients with PPPD.    The research team are currently developing the VR app to be used in the study and will hopefully be recruiting patients for this study by mid/late 2022 – for more information please contact Dr. Alexander Lehn on email: alexander.lehn@health.qld.gov.au
The FND Pregnancy/Women's Health Collaboration is an international group of FND experts trying to understand these connections better, which will hopefully lead to better care in the future. We have prepared two anonymous online surveys. Each survey takes about 10 minutes to fill out. We seek input by women aged 18 and above who suffer from FND. 1. The first study looks at the effect that pregnancies and pregnancy-related issues have on symptoms of FND. For anyone interested please follow this link for more information and to fill out the online survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/R5BD8R6 2. The second study investigates the effect that aspects of women’s health such as menstrual cycles (periods), menopause, and diseases such as endometriosis have on symptoms of FND. For anyone interested in this study follow this link for more information and to fill out the online survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/LGH9XB7 If you have any questions about this or would like to have more information about these studies please contact the investigators at FND.Research@health.qld.gov.au. Alexander Lehn, David Palmer and Ingrid Hoeritzauer for the FND Pregnancy/Women's Health Collaboration.