Bonding and Attunement in Neuropsychiatric Disorders (BAND) Laboratory

Our Mission

We believe the key to mental health and well-being starts with strong relationships. Our mission is to develop novel pharmacological and cognitive interventions for mental illness that enable patients to strengthen their connections to other people and the world. 

Our Lab

Director Josh D. Woolley MD/PhD and the Bonding and Attunement in Neuropsychiatric Disorders (BAND) Lab are broadly interested in psychiatry, neurobehavioral disorders, and affective neuroscience. Specifically, Dr. Woolley is interested in the role the neuropeptide oxytocin plays in social functioning and how manipulations of neurohormonal mechanisms involving oxytocin can lead to new therapeutic treatments for a variety of psychiatric conditions. Dr. Woolley studies the effects of oxytocin administration on the negative symptoms of schizophrenia, dyadic family interactions between young adults with mental illness and family members, social funcitoning and preferences for drugs in substance abusers, and team cohesion in ROTC recruits. Our studies evaluate the effects of oxytocin by utilizing behavioral measures as well as neuroimaging methodologies in both clinical and healthy populations. In addition to his work with oxytocin, Dr. Woolley investigates the use of iPad-based cognitive training excercises to treat cognitive deficits in patients with schizophrenia. 

Our Studies

Dr. Woolley has been studying the underpinnings of social deficits in schizophrenia and is currently examining oxytocin's potential as a treatment for the social dysfunction observed in patients with schizophrenia. Individuals with schizophrenia often demonstrate significant social cognitive deficits that can impair the formation and maintenance of healthy relationships, and negatively impact social interactions and community participation. However, there are currently no pharmacological treatments available to target these deficits. In healthy individuals, the natural hormone oxytocin has been shown to enhance social abilities such as understanding emotions and trusting others. Thus, a primary focus of our research has been to examine whether supplementary oxytocin administration can improve social cognition in individuals with schizophrenia, which may ultimately lead to stronger relationships, improved social and occupational functioning, and a higher overall quality of life.

In addition to our ongoing behavioral study examining the effects on oxytocin on social cognition in adults with schizophrenia, we are currently engaged in two studies that utilize neuroimaging (fMRI and MEG) to explore oxytocin-induced brain changes in patients with schizophrenia when engaged in social cognitive tasks.

Building on his research with oxytocin and schizophrenia, Dr. Woolley works in collaboration with Dr. Wendy Berry Mendes and Dr. Danielle Schlosser at the University of California, San Francisco to investigate whether oxytocin can improve dyadic family interactions in families where a child has been diagnosed with a mental illness. Parents, caretakers and other family members often experience stress, guilt, feelings of isolation, and other emotional difficulties when one or more relatives are diagnosed with mental illness. This can negatively effect the relationship between patients and family members, and interfere with treatment and care. Dr. Woolley and his team hope that oxytocin can help mediate some of these emotionally challenging experiences and foster positive communication.

Dr. Woolley also works closely with Dr. Steven Batki, Dr. David Kan, and research fellow Dr. Chris Stauffer at the San Francisco VA Medical Center's on studies that examine whether oxytocin can used as an adjunct treatment for overcoming opioid dependence and other substance use disorders. Additionly, Dr. Woolley collaborates with Dr. Sophia Vinogradov, a leading researcher in intensive computerized cognitive training exercises for patients with schizophrenia, to assess the feasibility of delivering cognitive training on mobile devices.

Most recently, Dr. Woolley and his team have been awarded a grant to study the effects of oxytocin on team dynamics and unit cohesion in ROTC recruits. The team has also recently received a grant to study PTSD.

To learn more about our active studies, or to sign up to be a paid research participant, please visit our Current Studies Page. 

You can make a difference!

We are working hard to develop novel pharmacological and cognitive interventions for mental illness that enable patients to strengthen their connections to other people and the world. Whether your gift is large or small, you have the power to make a lasting, significant contribution to the Bonding and Attunement in Neuropsychiatric Disorders (BAND) Laboratory of the UCSF Department of Psychiatry.

Please donate today. Your gift will help advance treatments for mental illness.

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