Our research program is devoted to developing direct brain treatments that target neural networks, rather than symptoms in neuropsychiatric disorders. This approach has been referred to as the “RDoCs” Initiative by the National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH). As a proof-of-concept of this approach, our laboratory is currently studying EEG- neurofeedback/self-regulation to modify neural networks implicated in working memory (WM). Cognitive impairments, especially in WM are an important functional target, since it is essential for everyday functioning. WM is a short-term, fluid and flexible space, where information can be manipulated, changed and analyzed to facilitate functioning. For example, when you decide to double a recipe, your WM allows you to hold information in place and adjust it, and then use it to accomplish your task. WM has a limited capacity, and has been shown to be impaired in many psychiatric disorders.
In our current studies, we are studying the effects of EEG-NFB on WM in individuals with schizophrenia and those with mild cognitive impairment. The studies are part of a larger effort within the UCSD Mental Health Technology Center (UCSD-MH Tech) to leverage technological innovations in mental health treatment. As an Associate Clinical Professor in the department of Psychiatry at UCSD, I teach psychiatry residents in a psychosis clinic, oversee management of the clinic as a medical director, and guide residents in their research endeavors. Through my clinical practice, I am all too familiar with the real-life consequences of mental illness, which is why we focus on functional neuroscience and have named our research program Functional Neuroscience Lab. We hope that neuroscientifically inspired and validated treatments can finally make their way into clinical psychiatry.