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Department of Psychology


Barry Everitt is a Professor and Director of Research, and Provost of the Gates Cambridge Trust, in the University of Cambridge.  He graduated from Hull University with a B.Sc. in Zoology (1967) and completed his Ph.D. in behavioural neuroendocrinology at the University of Birmingham Medical School in 1970. Following formative, postdoctoral neuroscience research at the Karolinska Institutet (1973-4), he was appointed lecturer, then Reader in Neuroscience in the Department of Anatomy, University of Cambridge. He moved to the Department of Experimental Psychology in Cambridge in 1994 and was appointed Professor of Behavioural Neuroscience. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 2007, Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences in 2008, and a Member of EMBO in 2014. As a behavioural neuroscientist, his research has always been concerned with understanding the neural mechanisms of motivation, learning and memory, especially in the context of drug addiction. His laboratory made fundamental discoveries on the corticostriatal systems mediating pavlovian and instrumental learning and memory mechanisms that underlie the seeking and taking of addictive drugs, in particular the neural basis of compulsive drug seeking habits. He also has a major interest in the molecular and systems basis of the reconsolidation and extinction of addictive drug and fear memories and the potential of targeting maladaptive memories in the treatment of neuropsychiatric disorders, including addiction. He has published over 400 scientific papers and is one of the world’s 50 most highly cited neuroscience researchers (h-Index 105 – WoS). He has been President of the British Association for Psychopharmacology (1992-4), the European Brain and Behaviour Society (1998-2000) and the European Behavioural Pharmacology Society (2003-2005) and is currently President-elect of the Federation of European Neuroscience Societies (President 2016-2108); he is also a member of Council of the Society for Neuroscience. He was Editor-in-Chief of the European Journal of Neuroscience (1997-2008) and is a Reviewing Editor for the journal Science. He has received many awards, including the Distinguished Scientific Contribution award of the American Psychological Association (2011), the Distinguished Scientific Achievement award of the European Behavioural Pharmacology Society (2011), and the FENS-EJN award of the Federation of European Neuroscience Societies (2012) and the Fondation Ipsen Neuronal Plasticity Prize (2014). 


My research is in the general area of behavioural neuroscience and is concerned with the neural and psychological mechanisms underlying learning, memory and motivation. My major research focus is the neuropsychology of drug addiction and is funded by the Medical Research Council. There are several key themes to this research: (i) the impact of learning on drug addiction – both its development and its persistence. For example, individuals who initially take drugs do so voluntarily (in psychological terms it is ‘goal-directed’); subsequently, prolonged bouts of drug taking, in some individuals, result in a loss of control over drug intake and in time it becomes a compulsive habit that is extremely difficult to relinquish. We have shown that this transition from initial, voluntary drug use to the compulsive drug taking, addicted state occurs through the progressive engagement of different pavlovian and instrumental learning systems in the brain and we are continuing to investigate this issue at a cellular and systems level. (ii) Only a small proportion of individuals who take drugs go on to become addicted and they can be considered as vulnerable. Research in our laboratory has shown that behavioural impulsivity is a vulnerability characteristic for addiction: impulsive individuals more readily escalate their cocaine intake and are those most likely to develop compulsive drug seeking and taking, which persists in the face of adverse outcomes. Impulsivity, we have shown, is associated with reduced levels of the D2 subtype of dopamine receptor in a specific brain area, the nucleus accumbens. (iii) Drug cues – stimuli that have become associated with the effects of self-administered drugs through pavlovian conditioning (these include not only the paraphernalia used by drug addicts, but specific places and even people) – also exert a powerful control over addictive behaviour. These cues elicit drug craving and they can precipitate relapse to a drug-taking habit in otherwise abstinent individuals. We have studied extensively the neural systems underlying these pavlovian influences on drug seeking. (iv) When individuals retrieve drug-associated memories, for example when they are exposed to drug-associated stimuli, the retrieved memory enters a labile state from which it must be restored, or reconsolidated through a new round of protein synthesis in the brain. This means that maladaptive drug-associated memories can be disrupted when they are made labile at retrieval. In our recent research we have shown both the underlying neural and cellular mechanisms involved, and also that disrupting such maladaptive memories can prevent subsequent drug seeking and relapse. Thus, disrupting drug memories in a clinical setting might provide a future treatment for drug addiction – and also other neuropsychiatric disorders characterized by intrusive and maladaptive memories, such as post-traumatic stress disorder.


Key publications: 

Murray JE, Belin-Rauscent A, Simon M, Giuliano C, Benoit-Marand M, Everitt BJ, Belin D. Basolateral and central amygdala differentially recruit and maintain dorsolateral striatum-dependent cocaine-seeking habits. Nature Communications 2015 Dec 14;6:10088. doi: 10.1038/ncomms10088. PMID: 26657320  

Everitt BJ, Robbins TW Drug Addiction: Updating Actions to Habits to Compulsions Ten Years On. Ann Rev Psych. 2015. doi: 10.1146/annurev-psych-122414-033457

Belin-Rauscent, A., M. Daniel, M. Puaud, B. Jupp, S. Sawiak, D. Howett, C. McKenzie, D. Caprioli, M. Besson, T.W. Robbins, B.J. Everitt, J.W. Dalley and D. Belin (2015From impulses to maladaptive actions: the insula is a neurobiological gate for the development of compulsive behavior. Molecular Psychiatry. 2015 Sep 15. doi: 10.1038/mp.2015.140. [Epub ahead of print].  PMID: 26370145

Joëls M, Di Luca M, Everitt BJ. (2015)  Neuro opinion: reforming the academic system is a joint responsibility. Eur J Neurosci. 2015 May;41(9):1111-2. doi: 10.1111/ejn.12886. Epub 2015 Apr 24. PMID: 25911971

Giuliano C, Goodlett CR, Economidou D, García-Pardo MP, Belin D, Robbins TW, Bullmore ET, Everitt BJ. The Novel μ-Opioid Receptor Antagonist GSK1521498 Decreases both Alcohol Seeking and Drinking: Evidence from a New Preclinical Model of Alcohol Seeking. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2015 Jun 5. doi: 10.1038/npp.2015.152. [Epub ahead of print] PMID: 26044906

Peña-Oliver Y, Giuliano C, Economidou D, Goodlett CR, Robbins TW, Dalley JW, Everitt BJ. Alcohol-Preferring Rats Show Goal Oriented Behaviour to Food Incentives but Are Neither Sign-Trackers Nor Impulsive. PLoS One. 2015 Jun 22;10(6):e0131016. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0131016. eCollection 2015. PMID: 2609836

Pelloux Y, Murray JE, Everitt BJ. (2015) Differential vulnerability to the punishment of cocaine related behaviours: effects of locus of punishment, cocaine taking history and alternative reinforcer availability. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 232(1):125-34. doi: 10.1007/s00213-014-3648-5. Epub 2014 Jun 21. PubMed PMID:24952093; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4281358.

Everitt BJ. (2014) Neural and psychological mechanisms underlying compulsive drug seeking habits and drug memories--indications for novel treatments of addiction.  Eur J Neurosci. 40(1):2163-82. doi: 10.1111/ejn.12644. Epub 2014 Jun 17. Review. PubMed PMID: 24935353; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4145664.

Merlo E, Milton AL, Goozee Z, Theobald D, Everitt BJ (2014) Reconsolidation and extinction are dissociable and mutually exclusive processes: behavioural and molecular evidence. J Neurosci. 2014 Feb 12;34(7):2422-31. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4001-13.2014. PMID:24523532 

Everitt BJ & Robbins TW. (2013) From the ventral to the dorsal striatum: evolving views of their roles in drug addiction. Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2013 Nov;37(9 Pt A):1946-54. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2013.02.010. PubMed PMID: 23438892.

Belin D, Belin-Rauscent A, Murray JE, Everitt BJ (2013) Addiction: failure of control over maladaptive incentive habits. Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2013 Aug;23(4):564-72. doi: 10.1016/j.conb.2013.01.025. PubMed PMID: 23452942.

Giuliano C, Robbins TW, Wille DR, Bullmore ET, Everitt BJ. (2013) Attenuation of cocaine and heroin seeking by μ-opioid receptor antagonism. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2013 May;227(1):137-47. doi: 10.1007/s00213-012-2949-9. PubMed PMID: 23299095; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3622002.

Willuhn I, Burgene LM, Everitt BJ & Phillips PEM. (2012) Encoding of drug cues by dopamine is under the control of a striatal hierarchy. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 109(50):20703-8. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1213460109. PubMed PMID: 23184975; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3528544.

Giuliano C, Robbins TW , Nathan PJ, Bullmore ET & Everitt BJ. (2012) Inhibition of opioid transmission at the µ-opioid receptor prevents both food seeking and binge-like eating. Neuropsychopharmacology doi: 10.1038/npp.2012.128

Murray JE, Belin D & Everitt BJ. (2012) Double dissociation of the dorsomedial and dorsolateral striatal control over the acquisition and performance of cocaine seeking. Neuropsychopharmacology 37:2456-66. doi: 10.1038/npp.2012.104.

Pelloux, Y Dilleen R, Economidou D, Theobald D & Everitt BJ. Reduced forebrain serotonin transmission is causally involved in the development of compulsive cocaine seeking.  Neuropsychopharmacology  37(11):2505-14 doi: 10.1038/npp.2012.111

Jonkman S, Pelloux Y & Everitt BJ. (2012) Differential roles of the dorsolateral and midlateral striatum in punished drug seeking. J Neuroscience 2(13):4645– 4650 • 4645

Belin, D., & Everitt, B.J. (2008). Cocaine seeking habits depend upon dopamine-dependent serial connectivity linking the ventral with the dorsal striatum. Neuron, 57 (3): 432-441.

Belin D., Mar, A.C., Dalley, J.W., Robbins, T.W., & Everitt, B.J. (2008). High impulsivity predicts the switch to compulsive cocaine seeking. Science 320(5881): 1352-1355.

Everitt, B.J., Belin, D., Economidou, D., Pelloux, Y., Dalley, J.W., & Robbins, T.W. (2008). Neural mechanisms underlying the vulnerability to develop compulsive drug seeking habits and addiction. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, Lond. B Biol. Sci. 363(1507): 3125-313

Everitt BJ, Robbins TW (2005). Neural systems of reinforcement for drug addiction: from actions to habits to compulsion.  Nature Neuroscience 8: 1481-1489

Emeritus Professor of Behavioural Neuroscience
Director of Research
Provost, Gates Cambridge Trust

Contact Details

Department of Psychology
University of Cambridge
Downing Street
Cambridge CB2 3EB
+44 (0)1223 (3)33583/(0)1223 (7)65286 (Department)/(0)1223 (3)34806 (Downing College)
Person keywords: 
memory reconsolidation
neural and psychological basis of drug addiction
Not available for consultancy