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Professor Trevor W. Robbins CBE FRS FMedSci FBPsS

Professor Trevor W. Robbins, CBE FRS FMedSci FBPsS

Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience and Experimental Psychology

Trevor Robbins is accepting applications for PhD students.

Office Phone: +44 (0)1223 (3)33551


Trevor Robbins was appointed in 1997 as the Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of Cambridge. He was elected to the Chair of Experimental Psychology (and Head of Department) at Cambridge from October 2002. He is also Director of the Behavioural and Clinical Neuroscience Institute (BCNI), jointly funded by the Medical Research Council and the Wellcome Trust. The mission of the BCNI is to inter-relate basic and clinical research in psychiatry and neurology for such conditions as Parkinson's, Huntington's, and Alzheimer's diseases, frontal lobe injury, schizophrenia, depression, drug addiction and developmental syndromes such as attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder.

Trevor is a Fellow of the British Psychological Society (1990), the Academy of Medical Sciences (2000) and the Royal Society (2005). He has been President of the European Behavioural Pharmacology Society (1992-1994) and he won that Society's inaugural Distinguished Scientist Award in 2001. He was also President of the British Association of Psychopharmacology from 1996 to 1997. He has edited the journal Psychopharmacology since 1980 and joined the editorial board of Science in January 2003. He has been a member of the Medical Research Council (UK) and chaired the Neuroscience and Mental Health Board from 1995 until 1999.

He has been included on a list of the 100 most cited neuroscientists by ISI, has published over 600 full papers in scientific journals and has co-edited seven books (Psychology for Medicine: The Prefrontal Cortex; Executive and Cognitive Function: Disorders of Brain and Mind 2:Drugs and the Future: The Neurobiology of Addiction; New Vistas. Decision-making, Affect and Learning: and, Cognitive Search: Evolution, Algorithms, and the Brain).

Trevor was jointly awarded (with B.J. Everitt) the American Psychological Association Award for Distinguished Scientific Contributions in 2011, and received the CBE for contributions to medical research in the New Year Honours List of 2012. He co-shared, with S. Dehaene and G. Rizzolatti, the 2014 Grete Lundbeck European Brain Research Prize (€ 1 million) for outstanding contributions to European neuroscience.

Research Interests

My research interests span the areas of cognitive neuroscience, behavioural neuroscience and psychopharmacology. My work focuses on functions of the frontal lobes of the brain and their connections with other regions, including the so-called brain reward systems in the striatum and the limbic system. These brain systems are relevant to such neuropsychiatric and neurological disorders as Parkinson's and Huntington's diseases, frontal dementia, schizophrenia, depression, drug addiction, obsessive-compulsive disorder and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, as well as frontal lobe injury. I am using a variety of methods for studying these systems, including experimental psychological paradigms for investigating cognitive functions such as planning, decision-making and self-control (impulsivity) in both normal subjects and patients; these include the computerised CANTAB battery, which I co-invented. I also employ functional brain imaging using brain scanners that operate via magnetic resonance imaging or positron emission tomography (PET) to determine where in the human brain various cognitive operations are carried out. In addition, I am interested in establishing how drugs work to produce changes in brain chemistry, and how these affect behaviour. Two particular current interests are characterising beneficial effects of drugs on cognition, as may occur with 'cognitive enhancing' drugs used clinically, and deleterious effects of drugs of abuse, such as cocaine and amphetamine.


  • cognitive
  • behaviour
  • dopamine
  • neuroscience
  • psychopharmacology

Key Publications

Selected publications (since 2003)

Aron, A.R., Fletcher, P.C., Bullmore, E.T., Sahakian, B.J. & Robbins, T.W. (2003) Stop-signal inhibition disrupted by damage to right inferior frontal gyrus in humans.  Nature Neuroscience, 6, 115-116.

Aron, A.R., Robbins, T.W. & Poldrack, R.A. (2004) Inhibition and the right inferior frontal cortex.  Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 8, 170-177.

Ito, R., Robbins, T.W. & Everitt, B.J. (2004) Differential control over cocaine-seeking behavior by nucleus accumbens core and shell.  Nature Neuroscience, 7, 389-397.

Clarke, H.F., Dalley, J.W., Crofts, H.S., Robbins, T.W. & Roberts, A.C. (2004) Cognitive inflexibility after prefrontal serotonin depletion.  Science, 304, 878-880.

Robbins, T.W. (2005) Chemistry of the mind: neurochemical modulation of prefrontal cortical function. Journal of Comparative Neurology, 493, 140-146. (Review)

Everitt, B.J. & Robbins, T.W. (2005) Neural systems of reinforcement for drug addiction: from actions to habits to compulsion.  Nature Neuroscience, 8, 1481-1489.  (Review)

Chamberlain, S.R., Müller, U., Blackwell, A.D., Clark, L., Robbins, T.W. & Sahakian, B.J. (2006) Neurochemical modulation of response inhibition and probabilistic learning in humans.  Science, 311, 861-863.

Dalley, J.W., Fryer, T.D., Brichard, L., Robinson, E.S.J., Theobald, D.E.H., Lääne, K., Peña, Y., Murphy, E.R., Shah, Y., Probst, K., Abakumova, I., Aigbirhio, F.I., Richards, H.K., Hong, Y., Baron, J.C., Everitt, B.J., Robbins, T.W. (2007) Nucleus accumbens D2/3 receptors predict trait impulsivity and cocaine reinforcement.  Science, 315, 1267-1270.

Robbins, T.W. (2007) Shifting and stopping: fronto-striatal substrates, neurochemical modulation and clinical implications.  Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences, 362, 917-932.  (Review)

Belin, D., Mar, A.C., Dalley, J.W., Robbins, T.W. & Everitt, B.J. (2008) High impulsivity predicts the switch to compulsive cocaine-taking.  Science, 320, 1352-1355.

Crockett, M.J., Clark, L., Tabibnia, G., Lieberman, M.D. & Robbins, T.W. (2008) Serotonin modulates behavioural reactions to unfairness.  Science, 320, 1739.

Chamberlain, S.R., Menzies, L., Hampshire, A., Suckling, J., Fineberg, N.A., del Campo, N., Aitken, M.R.F., Craig, K., Owen, A.M., Bullmore, E.T., Robbins, T.W. & Sahakian, B.J. (2008) Orbitofrontal dysfunction in patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder and their unaffected relatives.  Science, 321, 421-422.

Robbins, T.W. & Arnsten, A.F.T. (2009) The neuropsychopharmacology of fronto-executive function: monoaminergic modulation.  Annual Review of Neuroscience, 32, 267-287.  (Review)

Crockett, M.J., Clark, L., Hauser, M.D. & Robbins, T.W. (2010) Serotonin selectively influences moral judgment and behavior through effects on harm aversion.  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA, 107, 17433-17438.

Ersche, K.D., Bullmore, E.T., Craig, K.J., Shabbir, S.S., Abbott, S., Müller, U., Ooi, C., Suckling, J., Barnes, A., Sahakian, B.J., Merlo-Pich, E.V. & Robbins, T.W. (2010) Influence of compulsivity of drug abuse on dopaminergic modulation of attentional bias in stimulant dependence.  Archives of General Psychiatry, 67, 632-644.

Kehagia, A.A., Barker, R.A. & Robbins, T.W. (2010) Neuropsychological and clinical heterogeneity of cognitive impairment and dementia in Parkinson’s disease.  The Lancet Neurology, 9, 1200-1213.  (Review)

Indovina, I., Robbins, T.W., Núñez-Elizalde, A.O., Dunn, B.D. & Bishop, S.J. (2011) Fear-conditioning mechanisms associated with trait vulnerability to anxiety in humans. Neuron, 69, 563-571

Dalley, J.W., Everitt, B.J. & Robbins, T.W. (2011) Impulsivity, compulsivity, and top-down cognitive control.  Neuron, 69, 680-694. (Review)

Gillan, C.M., Papmeyer, M., Morein-Zamir, S., Sahakian, B.J., Fineberg, N.A., Robbins, T.W. & de Wit, S. (2011) Disruption in the balance between goal-directed behaviour and habit learning in obsessive-compulsive disorder.  American Journal of Psychiatry, 168, 718-726.

Robbins, T.W., Gillan, C.M., Smith, D.G., de Wit, S. & Ersche, K.D. (2012) Neurocognitive endophenoypes of impulsivity and compulsivity: towards dimensional psychiatry.  Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 16, 81-91 (Review).

Ersche, K.D., Jones, P.S., Williams, G.B., Turton, A.J., Robbins, T.W. & Bullmore, E.T. (2012)  Abnormal brain structure implicated in stimulant drug addiction. Science, 335, 601-604.


Photo credit: Lars Krabbe