Principal Investigator

Joshua D. Woolley, MD/PhD


Dr. Josh Woolley is an Associate Professor in Residence, in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) as well as a staff psychiatrist in Mental Health at the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center (SFVAMC). Dr. Woolley received his bachelor’s degree from Brown University with a double major in Biology and Philosophy. He received both his MD and his PhD in Neuroscience from UCSF. Through his clinical work, Dr. Woolley has come face-to-face with the epidemic of loneliness that affects more than 20% of the general population. Mental illness is intimately entwined with this epidemic because it both causes and is worsened by loneliness and social isolation. Despite the clinical impact of this tragic loneliness loop, Dr. Woolley noted a lack of modern clinical interventions for social difficulties. 

This insight, combined with his long standing interest in the mechanisms of behavior, led Dr. Woolley to found the Bonding and Attunement in Neuropsychiatric Disorders (BAND) Laboratory so that like-minded scientists, researchers, and mental healthcare providers could develop new treatments to help people with mental illness reconnect meaningfully with their loved ones and communities.  Through his role as the Director of the BAND Lab, Dr. Woolley and his team explore the mechanisms of social connection, the reasons why people with mental illness may struggle with social connection, and novel treatments for deficits of social connection among people with conditions ranging from schizophrenia to posttraumatic stress disorder to substance use disorders. 

In addition to his work as a researcher, Dr. Woolley is also a dedicated mentor, clinician, and educator who enjoys training the next generation of clinicians and scientists.  Over the course of his career, Dr. Woolley has mentored over 80 research assistants, over 20 postdoctoral fellows and several junior faculty members.  He is the Associate Director of the Psychosis Clinic at the SFVA where he supervises and trains medical students, psychiatry residents, and clinical and research fellows.  He has also served as the Co-Director of the first-year medical school psychiatry course Brain Mind and Behavior, and has been given several awards for his dedication to teaching.

Though early in his career, Dr. Woolley has received numerous intramural and extramural awards including the NARSAD Young Investigator Award from the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation, the Young Investigator Award, as well as travel awards from the California Society for Addiction Medicine, the American Society of Clinical Psychopharmacology, and the American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry.  His work is supported by the Department of Veteran Affairs as well as the Department of Defense and philanthropic support.  He has also published his work widely in high-impact journals including Schizophrenia Bulletin, Biological Psychiatry, and American Journal of Psychiatry, among others.

Apart from his research life, Dr. Woolley spends much of his free time chasing around his daughters and cats.