John JB Allen

John JB Allen

Professor, Psychology
Distinguished Professor
Professor, BIO5 Institute
Member of the General Faculty
Professor, Neuroscience - GIDP
Member of the General Faculty
Member of the Graduate Faculty
Primary Department
Department Affiliations
(520) 621-7448

Work Summary

Depression is a major health problem that is often chronic or recurrent. Existing treatments have limited effectiveness, and are provided wihtout a clear indication that they will match a particular patient's needs. In this era of precision medicine, we strive to develop neurally-informed treatments for depression and related disorders.

Research Interest

Dr. Allen’s research spans several areas, but the main focus is the etiology and treatment of mood and anxiety disorders. His work focuses on identifying risk factors for depression using electroencephalographic and autonomic psychophysiological measures, especially EEG asymmetry, resting state fMRI connectivity, and cardiac vagal control. Based on these findings, he is developing novel and neurally-informed treatments for mood and anxiety disorders, including Transcranial Ultrasound, EEG biofeedback, and Transcranial Direct Current and Transcranial Alternating Current stimulation. Other work includes understanding how emotion and emotional disorders influence the way we make decisions and monitor our actions. Keywords: Depression, Neuromodulation, EEG, Resting-state fMRI


J., J., Schnyer, R. N., Chambers, A. S., Hitt, S. K., Moreno, F. A., & Manber, R. (2006). Acupuncture for depression: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 67(11), 1665-1673.

PMID: 17196044;Abstract:

Objective: To assess the efficacy of acupuncture as an intervention for major depressive disorder (MDD). Method: Acupuncture was examined in 151 patients with MDD (DSM-IV) who were randomly assigned to 1 of 3 groups in a double-blind randomized controlled trial. The specific intervention involved Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)-style acupuncture with manual stimulation for depression; the control conditions consisted of (1) a nonspecific intervention using a comparable number of legitimate acupuncture points not specifically targeted to depressive symptoms and (2) a waitlist condition, which involved waiting without intervention for 8 weeks. After 8 weeks, all patients received the depression-specific acupuncture. Each 8-week intervention regimen consisted of 12 acupuncture sessions delivered in an acupuncturist's office in the community. The primary outcome measure was the 17-item Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression. The study was conducted from February 1998 to April 2002. Results: Twenty patients terminated treatment before the completion of the 8-week intervention (13%) but not differentially by study group. Random regression models of the intent-to-treat sample revealed that although patients receiving acupuncture improved more than those awaiting intervention, no evidence of differential efficacy of the depression-specific over nonspecific intervention was found. Response rates in acupuncture-treated patients were relatively low after 8 weeks (22% and 39% for specific and nonspecific intervention groups, respectively), with the response rate after the entire 16-week trial reaching 50%. Conclusion: Although TCM manual acupuncture is a well-tolerated intervention, results fail to support its efficacy as a monotherapy for MDD. It can't be ruled out that factors unique to the implementation of acupuncture in this research study may have limited the efficacy of interventions compared to those provided in naturalistic settings.

Cavanagh, J. F., Gründler, T. O., Frank, M. J., & Allen, J. J. (2010). Altered cingulate sub-region activation accounts for task-related dissociation in ERN amplitude as a function of obsessive-compulsive symptoms. Neuropsychologia, 48(7), 2098-2109.

PMID: 20381506;PMCID: PMC2876228;Abstract:

Larger error-related negativities (ERNs) have been consistently found in obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) patients, and are thought to reflect the activities of a hyperactive cortico-striatal circuit during action monitoring. We previously observed that obsessive-compulsive (OC) symptomatic students (non-patients) have larger ERNs during errors in a response competition task, yet smaller ERNs in a reinforcement learning task. The finding of a task-specific dissociation suggests that distinct yet partially overlapping medio-frontal systems underlie the ERN in different tasks, and that OC symptoms are associated with functional differences in these systems. Here, we used EEG source localization to identify why OC symptoms are associated with hyperactive ERNs to errors yet hypoactive ERNs when selecting maladaptive actions. At rest, OC symptomatology predicted greater activity in rostral anterior cingulate cortex (rACC) and lower activity in dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC). When compared to a group with low OC symptom scores, the high OC group had greater rACC reactivity during errors in the response competition task and less deactivation of dACC activity during errors in the reinforcement learning task. The degree of activation in these areas correlated with ERN amplitudes during both tasks in the high OC group, but not in the low group. Interactive anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) systems associated avoidance of maladaptive actions were intact in the high OC group, but were related to poorer performance on a third task: probabilistic reversal learning. These novel findings link both tonic and phasic activities in the ACC to action monitoring alterations, including dissociation in performance deficits, in OC symptomatic participants. © 2010 Elsevier Ltd.

Zambrano-Vazquez, L., & Allen, J. J. (2014). Response monitoring in Obsessive-compulsive, worrying, and anxious individuals. Neuropsychologia.
Matsuda, I., Nittono, H., & J., J. (2012). The current and future status of the concealed information test for field use. Frontiers in Psychology, 3(NOV).

PMID: 23205018;PMCID: PMC3507001;Abstract:

The Concealed Information Test (CIT) is a psychophysiological technique for examining whether a person has knowledge of crime-relevant information. Many laboratory studies have shown that the CIT has good scientific validity. However, the CIT has seldom been used for actual criminal investigations. One successful exception is its use by the Japanese police. In Japan, the CIT has been widely used for criminal investigations, although its probative force in court is not strong. In this paper, we first review the current use of the field CIT in Japan. Then, we discuss two possible approaches to increase its probative force: sophisticated statistical judgment methods and combining new psychophysiological measures with classic autonomic measures. On the basis of these considerations, we propose several suggestions for future practice and research involving the field CIT. © 2012 Matsuda, Nittono and Allen.

Lingdan, W. u., Jie, P. u., J., J., & Pauli, P. (2012). Recognition of facial expressions in individuals with elevated levels of depressive symptoms: An eye-movement study. Depression Research and Treatment, 2012.

PMID: 22288009;PMCID: PMC3263589;Abstract:

Previous studies consistently reported abnormal recognition of facial expressions in depression. However, it is still not clear whether this abnormality is due to an enhanced or impaired ability to recognize facial expressions, and what underlying cognitive systems are involved. The present study aimed to examine how individuals with elevated levels of depressive symptoms differ from controls on facial expression recognition and to assess attention and information processing using eye tracking. Forty participants (18 with elevated depressive symptoms) were instructed to label facial expressions depicting one of seven emotions. Results showed that the high-depression group, in comparison with the low-depression group, recognized facial expressions faster and with comparable accuracy. Furthermore, the high-depression group demonstrated greater leftwards attention bias which has been argued to be an indicator of hyperactivation of right hemisphere during facial expression recognition. © 2012 Lingdan Wu et al.