Kenneth J.D. Allen ’09, PhD
Department of Psychiatry & Human Behavior
The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University
Emotional Impulse Control: A transdiagnostic neurocognitive mechanism for self-injurious behaviors
The rate of completed suicide has risen 24 percent in the last decade, making it the second-leading cause of death among Americans aged 10-34. Nonsuicidal self-injury (NSSI) does not involve lethal intent, yet is among the best predictors of suicide attempts. Self-injurious behaviors are transdiagnostic: they are not restricted to a specific clinical category and often occur in the absence of any diagnosed psychiatric illness.
My research accordingly explores a range of functioning in cognitive processes that contribute to direct (e.g., NSSI, suicide) and indirect forms of self-harm, e.g., dysregulated eating, compulsive acts, and substance misuse. I am especially interested in objective (behavioral and biological) markers of emotional impulse control (EIC): the ability to effortfully resist or inhibit urges motivated by strong affective states. EIC deficits are a core feature of self-injurious behaviors and may indeed represent a functional indicator of latent vulnerability shared across all mental disorders. This talk will discuss the origins of EIC impairment, its neural substrates, and assessment approaches. We will also consider implications for treatment and prevention, guided by clinical, cognitive, and personality psychology.
Dr. Allen currently studies suicide risk among psychiatric inpatients at Brown Medical School, where he completed his residency in adult psychopathology. He received a BA in psychology from Oberlin College in 2009, and a PhD in clinical psychology from Harvard University last year.
Dr. Allen is grateful beyond words to Professors Nancy Darling, Cindy Frantz, and Stephen Mayer for their exceptional mentorship during his time at Oberlin. After graduating, he examined endophenotypes for substance misuse in the laboratory of Drs. Connie Duncan and Frances Gabbay at the Uniformed Services University. He then studied cognition in NSSI under advisor Jill Hooley, D.Phil., while training in evidence-based treatment for severe psychiatric illness at Harvard Medical School. He lives in Providence, RI, with his partner and their cow-cat, Artemis.