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Pediatric Functional Neurological Disorders at Yale

Yale Pediatric Neurology and Yale Child Study Center are conducting a multi-site research study to examine the effects of two commonly used treatments for improving Functional Neurological Disorder (FND) symptoms, specifically Functional Seizures (FS). This research will be conducted at 3 sites: University of Alabama at Birmingham, Yale School of Medicine/Yale New Haven Children's Hospital and Baylor College of Medicine/Texas Children's Hospital.

Children and adolescents may be eligible if they:

  • Are between the ages of 11-18
  • Have been diagnosed with FS or PNES confirmed by EEG
  • Have internet access for telehealth sessions
  • Have a parent/guardian willing to participate with them

About the Therapies

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) based treatments are the standard of care for treating pediatric patients with FND symptoms. This study uses two different CBT-based therapies to assess FND treatment outcomes. If you choose, you can undergo the therapy to which you were not randomized to at the end of the study.

What are the Benefits?

During this study, your child will learn skills that may improve their overall quality of life.

What Happens in the Study?

  • All participants receive one of the 2 well known cognitive behavioral treatments (therapy) for FS.
  • Participants will take part in 12 weekly therapy sessions and 5 labs visits (over 1 year).
  • Lab visits will be held over a Zoom call.
  • All but the 1st therapy session will be conducted via video telehealth.
  • No insurance is needed and treatment is free of cost.
  • Children and parents will be reimbursed for their time for lab visits and therapy sessions up to $250 total.

Faculty and Staff

  • Site Principal Investigator

    Associate Professor of Pediatrics (Neurology); Director, Pediatric MS Program

    Dr. Makhani completed her child neurology training and a formal multiple sclerosis fellowship at the Hospital for Sick Children and the University of Toronto. She also completed a Masters' Degree in Public Health at the Harvard School of Public Health. Dr. Makhani's clinical and research interests are in pediatric multiple sclerosis and other childhood brain inflammatory diseases. She is funded by NIH and the Charles H Hood Foundation to carry out studies to determine risk factors for clinical multiple sclerosis in asymptomatic children with brain MRI findings suggestive of multiple sclerosis.
  • Co-Investigator

    Assistant Professor; Yale Site Director, Comfort Ability Program, Child Study Center; Lead Supervisor, Pediatric Psychology Externship, Child Study Center

    Dr. Areti Vassilopoulos is a Pediatric Health Psychologist and Assistant Professor of Clinical Pediatrics & Child Psychology at Yale School of Medicine. Following her PhD, she completed her doctoral internship specializing in Pediatric Psychology at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine & Kennedy Krieger Institute, followed by a postdoctoral fellowship within the Psychiatry Consultation Service and Pediatric Transplant Service at Boston Children's Hospital & Harvard Medical School. Dr. Vassilopoulos is fully embedded within Pediatric Neurology to provide integrated behavioral health care and pediatric health psychology follow-up services. She works with children, teens, and young adults with a variety of conditions, including chronic pain, headaches/migraines, functional neurological symptom disorder (FNSD), muscular dystrophy, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, and related sleep concerns. Dr. Vassilopoulos is the site director for Comfort Ability Program in partnership with Boston Children's Hospital, which is an internationally disseminated workshop for pediatric pain and functional symptom management. Dr. Vassilopoulos is involved in training Yale Child Study Center fellows within the Pediatric Psychology track. She leads the an advanced pediatric psychology externship, that accepts one student a year in pediatric neurology. She also works closely with residents in Pediatric Neurology, and provides lectures in comprehensive pediatric pain management for the Medical Clerkship series through Yale School of Medicine. With regards to research, Dr. Vassilopoulos focuses on quality improvement initiatives, outcomes of clinical interventions, and the relationship between health and behavior pediatric medical ambulatory clinics. Her current ongoing research includes headache, sleep disruption, chronic pain, FNSD/FND, transition from pediatric to adult medical care, and pediatric-onset multiple sclerosis. She is currently co-investigator on the first and only NIH-Funded study for treatment of pediatric FNSD. Dr. Vassilopoulos values community outreach. She often collaborates with non-profit organizations, such as the Muscular Dystrophy Association and CanDo Multiple Sclerosis, for community presentations and online workshops.