Department of Psych/Public Mental Health & Population Sciences
Dr. Carolyn Rodriguez utilizes her training as a psychiatrist, neuroscientist, and clinical researcher to innovate rapid-acting treatments to relieve the suffering of patients with severe mental illnesses, including Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and hoarding disorder. She has led landmark clinical trials that pioneered new targeted treatments and investigated the role of glutamatergic and opioid pathways. As the Director of the Translational Therapeutics Lab and Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science, she developed methods that combine in vivo drug infusions with magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS), functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and electroencephalograpy (EEG) to map human brain circuit dysfunction in real time.
Carolyn is currently engaged in NIH, foundation, and donor funded mechanistic and clinical efficacy studies of glutamate-modulating compounds, non-invasive brain stimulation, and psychotherapy in OCD. Additional studies focus on understanding the brain mechanisms involved in hoarding disorder and how hording behaviors differ from normal collecting. Carolyn also provides mental health care for Veterans as a Consultation-Liaison psychiatrist at the Palo Alto Veterans Affairs.
Carolyn received her B.S. in Computer Science from Harvard University in 1996, followed by a Ph.D. in Neuroscience and Genetics from Harvard Medical School and an M.D. from Harvard Medical School-M.I.T. in 2004. Born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, she now lives with her husband and 3 children in Palo Alto.
Hoarding disorder, characterized by difficulty parting with possessions and accumulation of large volumes of clutter, is a common and disabling public health problem. Estimates of the prevalence of hoarding disorder range from 2-6%. Hoarding symptoms are three times more likely to occur in older adults than in younger adults. Individuals with hoarding disorder typically come to treatment at age 55 or greater and report increasing severity of hoarding symptoms in each successive decade of their lives. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) tailored to hoarding is currently our most effective treatment. Despite this favorable response rate to CBT, most hoarding patients who receive CBT remain symptomatic. An obstacle to significant improvement is inability to practice decision-making and decluttering skills within the home due to safety concerns including: physical limitations of older adults pest infestation, fire hazards, piles higher than shoulder-height and fall risks. Technical advances have made possible access to virtual reality environments that allow for safe skills practice in older adults. Our goal is to evaluate the feasibility and potential utility of this approach in an open-label pilot study.