Posted: 20 May 2015
As part of his new appointment Professor Allen will be embarking on two major research projects: one project will aim to develop ways for people with psychosis to control symptoms such as hearing voices, and a second project will examine alterations in the brain in early onset cannabis users. Read more about these below.
Working in the Combined Universities Brain Imaging Centre (CUBIC), Professor Allen will assess the feasibility of using real-time functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) neurofeedback of the human brain function to reduce and/or control psychiatric symptoms such as hearing voices (auditory hallucinations). He will work with NHS patients with psychosis to train them on ways that they can control their voices, through a virtual game and a strategy to manage signals from the brain that cause them to hallucinate or experience other psychiatric symptoms.
The trials will allow patients with schizophrenia to take part in the study, who have previously been on medications that have not been effective. Real time fMRI neurofeedback can also be used for people with depressions, anxiety or used for brain training to improve attention and even memory. If the treatment tested on patients is successful it will have potential to be used in in clinical settings. This project is funded by the Medical Research Council Innovation Grant and King’s Health Partners
Professor Allen said: “Roehampton is well placed for my research; the Combined Brain Imaging Centre can be used to develop these techniques, which could eventually be applied in clinical settings. The facilities will allow me to examine, in real-time, how the human brain responds to training programmes and to establish which strategies work best for patients.”
Professor Allen will examine brain changes in early onset cannabis users whom have used the drug on a regular and long-term basis . Using MRI to examine any alterations in the brain function and chemistry the project will attempt to establish if regular cannabis use, in particular use that started before fifteen years of age, has effects on areas of the brain involved in memory and on neurochemicals that regulate brain activity.
Professor Allen’s main area of expertise is Brain Imaging, using Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and Positron Emission Tomography (PET). He has largely applied these techniques on people with psychiatric conditions.
Through this year’s Vice Chancellor scholarship one lucky applicant will be able to research neurocognitive alterations in early onset cannabis users under the supervision of Professor Paul Allen.
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