Ilaria Pozzato is a Rehabilitation Physician specialist with an expertise in brain injury. She completed a MBBS (Honours) and a Master’s degree in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Padua University, Italy. In 2014 she began working as Research Fellow at the John Walsh Centre for Rehabilitation Research – University of Sydney. In this role she has further developed her expertise in evaluating health outcomes and disability following an injury, using a bio-psycho-social approach.
Ilaria’s research interests are focused on the link between emotional, cognitive, physical and social aspects that shape human health and disease. Her primary focus is on developing a deeper understanding of the neurophysiological processes underlying recovery and mental and physical well-being after a traumatic event.
Mental health problems, such as depression and PTSD, are common following a motor vehicle crash, and the prevalence of psychological disorder (40%) is much higher than in the Australian community (<10%). A variety of biological, psychological and social factors are assumed to contribute to the development of mental disorders and comorbidity after a traumatic injury. In particular, experiencing elevated distress following an accident greatly affects the ability of a person to recover quickly, increasing the risk of developing serious mental health disorders and of suffering from co-occurring physical problems. Dysregulation, early after the crash, of the autonomic nervous system, which controls the functions of organs that are critical for survival (such as breathing and heart activity), is believed to hold promise for identifying those at high risk of poor mental health and recovery after a traumatic injury. However, there is little clarity about simple biomarkers that in combination with psychosocial factors, can help clinicians to determine the high risk survivors.
This project will address this critical gap by: (i) determining risk of the development of mental disorders in a large Australian cohort of adults sustaining injury in a motor vehicle crash, and (ii) comprehensively examining factors that may predict susceptibility to mental disorders and poor recovery 6 to 12 months after a motor vehicle crash, including the autonomic nervous system (re)activity (e.g. heartbeats regulation, respiratory patterns, etc.). Early detection is a crucial strategy for preventing development of mental disorders and improve health and quality of life among those sustaining a traumatic injury.
Supervisors: Prof Ashley Craig, A/Prof Bamini Gopinath, Prof Ian Cameron
This study will bring substantial benefits to the community, through preventing morbidity and disability following a motor vehicle crash. The study outcomes will lead to greater emotional well-being, better quality of life and faster recovery of people surviving a motor vehicle crash and their families. In particular, the use of a simple and noninvasive autonomic nervous system testing, in association with other psycho-social assessment, to determine whether a person is at high risk of poor mental health and recovery, will be a major breakthrough in both psychiatric and primary care, and will also advise policy change. Moreover, this study will develop processes that can possibly inform prevention of mental health problems and disability following other injury or traumatic events.