Professor Karen Barlow

Acting Director, CHRC

Child Health Research Centre
Faculty of Medicine

Affiliate Associate Professor

School of Biomedical Sciences
Faculty of Medicine
+61 7 3069 7486


I am an academic paediatric neurologist, clinical researcher, and specialist in acquired brain injury in children and adolescence. I studied at the University of Edinburgh and British Columbia before taking up my first academic position at the University of Calgary in 2002. Here I developed and directed the Traumatic Brain Injury and Concussion Research Program at the Alberta Children's Hospital and where I cemented my interest in the biology and treatment of children with brain injuries. I have extensive clinical research experience, devising and overseeing clinical trials in children both nationally and internationally. I moved to the Child Health Research Centre at the University of Queensland, Australia in October 2017 and joined the Queensland Paediatric Rehabilitation Service and Queensland Cerebral Palsy Rehabililation Centre to facilitate research into improving the health outcomes of children with acquired brain injury in Queensland and Australia.

My research focuses on the neurobiological signatures and treatment of subtle neurological dysfunction in mild traumatic brain injury and concussion, especially the behavioural and cognitive impairments that are found in post-concussion syndrome. I use multimodal neurological assessments to do this. My research explores combining neuroimaging and neurophysiological investigations, including perfusion studies using MRI (ASL-fMRI) and transcranial magnetic stimulation to help us understand the changes in the brain in children who are slow to recovery following a concussion. This is to help us develop and assess more effective and tailored treatments for children with concussion and traumatic brain injury. I explore novel therapies for children with persistent post-concussive symptoms in clinical trials including the use of neuraceuticals, pharmacotherapies, and non-invasive brain stimulation treatment.

I am the director of the newly-established KidStim Lab at the Child Health Research Centre. This is the first non-invasive neuromodulation facility aimed at improving the health outcomes of children with brain injury in Australia and is led by a mulitdisciplinary team of clinicians and scientists from Brisbane bring a unique clinical and scientific knowledge-base to help achieve our goals. Rehabilitation therapy in combination with repetitive transcranial direct current stimulation (rTMS) and other direct current stimulation modalities (e.g. tDCS) will be explored. It also offers the potential for treatment of the mood and behavioural disorders (e.g. depression and anxiety) commonly seen after brain injury but also so disruptive to the life of the normally developing teenager.

Research Interests

  • Paediatric Neurology
  • Neurotrauma
  • Concussion and mild traumatic brain injury
  • Headache and pain disorders
  • Clinical trials


  • Bachelor of Medicine / Bachelor of Surgery, University of Edinburgh


  • Ly, Anh, Zemek, Roger, Wright, Bruce, Zwicker, Jennifer, Schneider, Kathryn, Mikrogianakis, Angelo, Conradi, Alf, Johnson, David, Clark, Brenda, Barlow, Karen, Burey, Joseph, Kolstad, Ash and Yeates, Keith Owen (2021). “What is the actual goal of the pathway?”: examining emergency department physician and nurse perspectives on the implementation of a pediatric concussion pathway using the theoretical domains framework. BMC Health Services Research, 21 (1) 119, 119. doi: 10.1186/s12913-021-06110-2

  • Enticott, Peter G, Barlow, Karen, Guastella, Adam J, Licari, Melissa K, Rogasch, Nigel C, Middeldorp, Christel M, Clark, Scott R, Vallence, Ann-Maree, Boulton, Kelsie A, Hickie, Ian B, Whitehouse, Andrew J O, Galletly, Cherrie, Alvares, Gail A, Fujiyama, Hakuei, Heussler, Helen, Craig, Jeffrey M, Kirkovski, Melissa, Mills, Natalie T, Rinehart, Nicole J, Donaldson, Peter H, Ford, Talitha C, Caeyenberghs, Karen, Albein-Urios, Natalia, Bekkali, Soukayna and Fitzgerald, Paul B (2021). Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) in autism spectrum disorder: protocol for a multicentre randomised controlled clinical trial. BMJ Open, 11 (7) e046830, e046830. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2020-046830

  • Babl, Franz E, Tavender, Emma, Ballard, Dustin W, Borland, Meredith L, Oakley, Ed, Cotterell, Elizabeth, Halkidis, Lambros, Goergen, Stacy, Davis, Gavin A, Perry, David, Anderson, Vicki, Barlow, Karen M, Barnett, Peter, Bennetts, Scott, Bhamjee, Roisin, Cole, Joanne, Craven, John, Haskell, Libby, Lawton, Ben, Lithgow, Anna, Mullen, Glenda, O'Brien, Sharon, Paproth, Michelle, Wilson, Catherine L, Ring, Jenny, Wilson, Agnes, Leo, Grace SY and Dalziel, Stuart R (2021). Australian and New Zealand Guideline for Mild to Moderate Head Injuries in Children. EMA - Emergency Medicine Australasia, 33 (2), 214-231. doi: 10.1111/1742-6723.13722

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  • Doctor Philosophy

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PhD and MPhil Supervision

Current Supervision

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

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Possible Research Projects

Note for students: The possible research projects listed on this page may not be comprehensive or up to date. Always feel free to contact the staff for more information, and also with your own research ideas.