Dr. Allen is the Director of the Neurocircuitry & Cognition Lab at Florida International University (FIU). The lab was established to study the neurobiological mechanisms of cognition and related mental health disorders, with an emphasis on the role of long-range connections between the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex. The lab translates animal findings to human populations through collaborations with neuroimaging, public health, and clinical experts.
Dr. Allen earned his doctorate at Yale University in 2008 and completed work as a Post-Doctoral Scholar at the University of California, Irvine in July 2013. Dr. Allen served as an Associate Project Scientist in the Center for the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory at the University of California, Irvine until he joined the faculty in the Cognitive Neuroscience Program at Florida International University in August 2015. In 2019 Dr. Allen was named an FIU Top Scholar by President Mark B. Rosenberg and Provost Kenneth G. Furton.
The lab studies the contributions of circuits connecting the hippocampus and medial prefrontal cortex, including the nucleus reuniens of the thalamus and perirhinal cortex, to memory and behavior. Importantly, the connections between the hippocampus and the prefrontal cortex are abnormal in several mental health disorders (e.g., Alzheimer’s disease, schizophrenia, developmental lead neurotoxicity, epilepsy, and ADHD), yet the exact nature of connectivity irregularities remains unclear.
In our experiments, we record neural activity in rats and pigs using high-density drivable arrays of tetrodes and silicon probes in combination with cutting-edge genetic and pharmacological tools to manipulate circuits (including use of optogenetics and DREADDs) as animals perform complex behavioral tasks. We use also tracers and immunohistochemistry to further detail the anatomy. Additionally, functional neuroimaging and tractography is used in pig and human populations. This cross-species translational research pipeline helps extend our findings from rodents to humans, and facilitate discovery.