Member since: 1997, fellow since 2008
Occupation: Psychology professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Love of the lab: Allen was first drawn to psychology because he enjoys helping people. As an undergraduate at Eastern Washington University in Cheney, Wash., he took a research methods course where he designed a project to study fetal alcohol syndrome in rats. He quickly learned that while he still liked helping people, he really liked research.
“I became fascinated by the brain,” says Allen, “especially how brain dysfunction leads to the psychotic symptoms we see in people with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.”
Now he gets the best of both worlds, he says. He uses clinical instruments such as IQ tests and verbal learning tests to inform his own research, allowing him to develop studies that can help psychologists treat people with serious mental illness.
Paying it forward: In 1993, during an internship with the Department of Veterans Affairs in Pittsburgh, Allen worked with psychologist Jerry Goldstein, PhD, a past president of Div. 40 (Clinical Neuropsychology), the International Neuropsychology Society and the National Academy of Neuropsychology. Goldstein profoundly changed his life, Allen says, by offering invaluable career, research and personal guidance and helping direct him down a path where he can help a younger generation, too. As a result, Allen makes sure he gives his students special attention. “Everybody’s so busy that it can be hard for junior folks to find a senior person to take them under their wing,” he says. Despite the time Allen devotes to teaching, research and publishing, he still sets aside at least two hours a day for advising graduate students.
New findings: Allen recently studied cognitive deficits in people with bipolar disorder and found that many people with bipolar disorder have more cognitive deficits than previous research has revealed. Allen has also found cognitive deficits in first-degree relatives of people with bipolar disorder, though these relatives do not exhibit symptoms of the illness. This research helps shed light on the biological and genetic factors involved with the disorder, he says. “Our tests have loads of clinical applications, and they can help treat people with these complicated disorders,” says Allen.