New Brain Training Treatments for Psychiatric Illness: Dr. Josh Woolley & Dr. Danielle Schlosser

My recovery from schizophrenia was a rocky road. Even once I got my psychosis under control, I found my deficient cognitive, motivational and social functioning still left me somewhat handicapped. Since then, so many of the things that have made my life worthwhile—nurturing relationships, succeeding at work, pursuing personal goals, contributing to the community—I have only been able to do because I found ways to develop these capacities. A turning point for me was the use of a cognitive training program conducted by Dr. Sophia Vinogradov of UCSF. This program focused on strengthening the brain’s auditory processing circuits. I used this program on a laptop computer for two months in 1998, and the boost it gave to my ability to participate in conversation has snowballed over the years into many other areas.

Now, a second generation of digital programs has arrived, aiming to strengthen other types of functioning, including motivational drive and social cognition. With us this month on Brain Waves were two leaders creating this second wave, Dr. Danielle Schlosser and Dr. Joshua Woolley, both at UCSF. These two scientists are working, both independently and together, to offer individuals with schizophrenia, depression, autism, and other conditions opportunities to improve their abilities and lives.

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Thank you Brandon and IMHRO for hosting us on Brain Waves! I am happy to answer any questions people may have about our research. 

Thank you for the informative and interesting discussion of your research! I wish we lived in the Bay area in order to participate. I especially liked the appealing nature of the interventions, using well-designed "games", and the dyads. Thank you for your work in this field, and to IMHRO for hosting this discussion.
Being too far away to participate in your labs, I was wondering whether you think that the oxytocin effect might be replicated at home using anything else? I have found that my personal mindfulness practice has, at times, been beneficial in my relationship with a family member living with a diagnosis. Do you have any other suggestions for those of us too far away to participate in your labs? 
 
I look forward to reading more about the results of your research.

Thank you for your interest in our work! Our clinical trials are currently set up to be conducted remotely so you may participate from anywhere in the country as long as you meet our eligibility criteria. Please visit our website to learn more about our studies @ http://drive.ucsf.edu/  

Hi,
So we and others are working on making it possibe for doctors to prescribe high quality intranasal oxytocin. Unfortunately, this is not yet possible. However, there are things that have been shown to increase oxytocin levels. Warm touch from a partner or loved one seems to increase oxytocin levels. ALso, there is some evidence that the gaze or touch from a loved pet can also do it. We don't know if these things will necesarrily have effects similar to intranasal oxytocin but I think they can't hurt and would likely help!
Josh Woolley
BANDlab@ucsf.edu

Hi,
Also, even if you live far away, we have many studies in which you can participate. Just let us know if you would like to get involved.
Sincerely,
Josh Woolley

I want to hear your questions and comments!

What a hopeful and inspirational interview!
We live in Nevada.  Our daughter's illness (schizoaffecive disorder) presented several years ago.  She is now 20.  You both mention that your research involves young people so I was wondering if she is still young enough for your research studies.  If so, how might we begin the process for BAND or DRIVE?
We have tried and tried but she has yet to meet anyone her age with schizoaffective disorder/schizophrenia and your studies would provide that chance to connect with others in a responsible group setting. 
I am so excited for the potential your studies offer.
Thanks so much,  Gayle
P.S.  In response to here4u as well as mention of th oxytocin study, I also practice mindfulness techniques when our daughter struggles with symptoms and it makes all the difference in the world...so I was happy to hear about your oxytocin study and the way you involve parents...so much potential in that process.
 

@Gayle A Thank you for your feedback! It means so much to us to provide hope for people affected by schizophrenia. Your daughter fits in our age range. Our studies include young people between the ages of 14-30. Please call our lab manager, Brandy Truong @ 415-476-7144 and she will talk with you about our studies and how we might sign your daughter up for our research!

Thank you so much.  I will call today. :)
 

Thanks to Gayle and here4u for your participation in this week's feature--I hope the information will prove helpful to your families. Many thanks to Danielle and Josh for appearing this week! Hope to see everyone next time on Brain Waves. Signing off for now.

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