Alan N. Simmons, Ph.D. 

Associate Professor

Stress and Neuroimaging Lab

Contact Information

T: (858) 642-3547


Dr. Simmons received his B.A. degree in Psychology from the University of California at San Diego and his Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the Pacific Graduate School of Psychology. After completing a predoctoral internship in clinical neuropsychology at Oak Forest Hospital in Illinois, he joined the laboratories of Professors Murray Stein and Martin Paulus as a postdoctoral fellow. Dr. Simmons is the Director of the fMRI Research Core, at the San Diego VA Healthcare System.

Research Interests

Research Focus

Dr. Simmons’s research focuses on neuroimaging of emotional systems such as anticipatory and affective appraisal. His main focus in is PTSD and TBI. He has conducted studies on posttraumatic stress disorders, head injury, trait anxiety, neuropsychopharmacology, and depression. Dr. Simmons is collaborating with other investigators on the study of pain processing, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, adult/adolescent depression, and eating disorders. In addition, he is working on novel computational models for imaging analysis. Dr. Simmons has received funding the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Affective Disorders (NARSAD) and from the U.S. Department of Defense. He has over a hundred peer-reviewed manuscripts and several book chapters.


  • McCarthy, M.J., Liang, S., Spadoni, A.D., Kelsoe, J.R., & Simmons, A.N. (2014). Whole Brain Expression Of Bipolar Disorder Associated Genes: Structural and Genetic Analyses. PLoS One
  • Strigo, I.A., Spadoni, A.D., Simmons, A.N. (in press). Too hard to control: compromised pain anticipation and modulation in mild traumatic brain injury. Translational Psychiatry.
  • Simmons, A.N., Norman, S.B., Spadoni, A.D., & Strigo, I.A. (in press). Neurosubstrates of remission following Prolonged Exposure therapy in veterans with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics.
  • Strigo, I.A. Matthews, S.C., & Simmons, A.N. (2013). Decreased frontal regulation during pain anticipation in unmedicated subjects with major depressive disorder. Translational Psychiatry, 3:e239.
  • Simmons, A.N., Flagan, T.M., Wittmann, M., Strigo, I.A., Matthews, S.C., Donovan, H., Lohr, J.B., & Paulus, M.P. (2013). The effects of temporal unpredictability in anticipation of negative events in combat veterans with PTSD. Journal of Affective Disorders, 146(3):426-32.
  • Matthews, S.C., Spadoni, A.D., Lohr, J., Strigo, I.A., & Simmons, A.N. (2012). Diffusion tensor imaging of blast exposure in OEF-OIF veterans: Evidence of white matter disruption associated with loss versus alteration of consciousness. Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, 204(2-3):149-54.
  • Simmons, A.N., Thayer, R.E., Spadoni, A.D., Matthews, S.C., Strigo, I.A., & Tapert, S.F. (2012). The Parametric, Psychological, Neuropsychological, and Neuroanatomical Properties of Self and World Evaluation. PLoS ONE, 7(2): e31509.
  • Simmons, A.N., Fitzpatrick, S., Strigo, I.A., Potterat, E.G., Johnson, D.C., Matthews, S.C., Van Orden, K.F., Swain, J.L., Paulus, M.P. (2012). Altered Insula Activation in Anticipation of Changing Emotional States: Neural Mechanisms Underlying Cognitive Flexibility in Special Operations Forces Personnel. NeuroReport, 23(4):234-9.
  • Simmons, A.N., Matthews, S.C., Strigo, I.A., Baker, D.G., Donovan, H.K., Motezadi, A., Stein, M.B., & Paulus, M.P. (2011). Altered amygdala activation during face processing in Iraqi and Afghanistani war veterans. Biology of Mood & Anxiety Disorders. 1:6 doi:10.1186/2045-5380-1-6.
  • Simmons, A.N., & Matthews, S.C. (2012). Neural Circuitry of PTSD with or without Mild Traumatic Brain Injury: a meta-analysis. Neuropharmacology, 62(1):598-606.
  • Simmons, A.N., Stein, M.B., Strigo, I.A., Arce, E., Hitchcock, C., & Paulus, M.P. (2011). Anxiety positive subjects show altered processing in the anterior insula during anticipation of negative stimuli. Human Brain Mapping. 32(11):1836-46.
  • Strigo, I.A., Matthews, S.C., & Simmons, A.N. (2010). Right Anterior Insula Hypoactivity During Anticipation of Homeostatic Shifts in Major Depressive Disorder. Psychosom Med., 72(3):316-23.
  • Simmons, A.N., Arce, E., Lovero, K.L., Stein, M. B., & Paulus, M.P. (2009). Subchronic SSRI administration reduces insula response during affective anticipation in health volunteers. The International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology, 23:1-12.
  • Simmons, A.N., Strigo, I.A., Matthews, S.C., Paulus, M.P., & Stein, M.B. (2009). Initial evidence of a failure to activate right anterior insula during affective set shifting in PTSD. Psychosomatic Medicine, 71(4):373-7.
  • Simmons, A.N., Paulus, M.P., Thorp, S.R., Matthews, S.C., Norman, S.B., & Stein, M.B. (2008). Functional Activation and Neural Networks in Women with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Related to Intimate Partner Violence. Biol Psychiatry, 64(8):681-90.