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Department of Psychology


Trevor Robbins was appointed in 1997 as the Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of Cambridge. He was formerly Professor of Experimental Psychology (and Head of Department) at Cambridge from October 2002-October 2017. He is also Director of the Behavioural and Clinical Neuroscience Institute (BCNI), jointly funded by the Medical Research Council and the Welcome 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's current research is focused on impulsive-compulsive disorders (such as OCD and drug addiction) and fronto-striatal systems of the brain.

 Trevor is a Fellow of the British Psychological Society (1990), British Pharmacological Society (2017), 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 800 full papers in scientific journals and has co-edited eight 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: Cognitive Search: Evolution, Algorithms, and the Brain; and Translational Neuropsychopharmacology). He was recently ranked as "the 4th most influential brain scientist of the modern era". Read more

Trevor won the inaugural European Behavioural Society "Distinguished Scientific Contribution" in 2000 and the IPSEN Fondation Neuroplasticity prize in 2005. He 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. In 2015 he received (with BJ Sahakian) the Robert Sommer Award for research into schizophrenia. In 2016 he received the Lifetime Achievement Award of the British Association for Psychopharmacology. In 2017 he received the Gold Medal from the Society of Biological Psychiatry and also the Patricia Goldman-Rakic Award for Cognitive Neuroscience. In 2018 he became an Honorary Professor at Fudan University, Shanghai. 


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.


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.

Blakemore, S.J. & Robbins, T.W. (2012) Decision-making in the adolescent brain. Nature Neuroscience, 15, 1184-1191.

Ersche, K.D., Jones, P.S., Williams, G.B., Smith, D.G., Bullmore, E.T. & Robbins, T.W. (2013) Distinctive personality traits and neural correlates associated with stimulant drug use versus familial risk of stimulant dependence. Biological Psychiatry, 74, 137-44.

Crockett, M.J., Braams, B.R., Clark, L., Tobler, P.N., Robbins, T.W. & Kalenscher, T. (2013) Restricting temptations: neural mechanisms of precommitment. Neuron, 79(2), 391-401.

Bari, A. & Robbins, T.W. (2013) Inhibition and impulsivity: behavioral and neural basis of response control. Progress in Neurobiology, 108, 44-79.

Besson, M., Pelloux, Y., Dilleen, R., Theobald, D.E., Lyon, A., Belin-Rauscent, A., Robbins, T.W., Dalley, J.W., Everitt, B.J. & Belin, D. (2013) Cocaine modulation of fronto-striatal expression of zif268, D2 and 5-HT2c receptors in high and low impulsive rats. Neuropsychopharmacology, 38(10), 1963-73.

Voon, V., Irvine, M.A., Derbyshire, K., Worbe, Y., Lange, I., Abbott, S., Morin-Zamir, S., Dudley, R., Caprioli, D., Harrison, N.A., Wood, J., Dalley, J.W., Bullmore, E.T., Grant, J.E. & Robbins, T.W. (2013) Measuring “waiting” impulsivity in substance addictions and binge eating disorder in a novel analogue of the rodent serial reaction time task. Biological Psychiatry, 75(2),148-55.

Caprioli, D., Sawiak, S.J., Merlo, E., Theobald, D.E., Spoelder, M., Jupp, B., Voon, V., Carpenter, T.A., Everitt, B.J., Robbins, T.W. & Dalley, J.W. (2013) Gamma aminobutyric acidergic and neuronalstructural markers in the nucleus accumbens core underlie trait-like impulsive behaviour. Biological Psychiatry, 75(2), 115-23.

Gillan, C.M., Morein-Zamir, S., Urcelay, G.P., Sule, A., Voon, V., Apergis-Schoute, A.M., Fineberg, N.A., Sahakian, B.J. & Robbins, T.W. (2014) Enhanced avoidance habits in obsessive-compulsive disorder. Biological Psychiatry, 75(8), 631-8.

Fernando, A., Urcelay, G., Mar, A., Dickinson, A., Robbins, T. (2014) Free-operant avoidance behavior by rats after reinforcer revaluation using opioid agonists and D-amphetamine. Journal of Neuroscience, 34(18), 6286-93.

Kehagia AA, Housden CR, Regenthal R, Barker RA, Müller U, Rowe J, Sahakian BJ, Robbins TW. (2014) Targeting impulsivity in Parkinson's disease using atomoxetine. Brain, 137(Pt 7), 1986-97.

Eisenegger C, Naef M, Linssen A, Clark L, Gandamaneni PK, Müller U, Robbins TW. (2014) Role of dopamine D2 receptors in human reinforcement learning. Neuropsychopharmacology, 39(10), 2366-2375

Gillan, C.M., Robbins, T.W. (2014) Goal-directed learning and obsessive-compulsive disorder.Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological sciences, 369(1655). pii:20130475.

Rygula, R., Clarke, H.F., Cardinal, R.N., Cockcroft, G.J., Xia, J., Dalley, J.W., Robbins, T.W., Roberts, A.C. (2014) Role of central serotonin in anticipation of rewarding and punishing outcomes: effects of selective amygdala or orbitofrontal 5-HT depletion. Cerebral Cortex, 25(9):3064-76.

Voon, V., Derbyshire, K., Rück, C., Irvine, M.A., Worbe, Y., Enander, J., Schreiber, L.R., Gillan, C.,Fineberg, N.A., Sahakian, B.J., Robbins, T.W., Harrison, N.A., Wood, J., Daw, N.D., Dayan, P., Grant, J.E., Bullmore, E.T. (2015) Disorders of compulsivity: a common bias towards learning habits. Molecular Psychiatry, 20(3), 345-52.

Giuliano, C., Goodlett, C.R., Economidou, D., García-Pardo, M.P., Belin, D., Robbins, T.W., Bullmore, E.T., Everitt, B.J. (2015) The novel μ-opioid receptor antagonist GSK1521498 decreases both alcohol seeking and drinking: evidence from a new preclinical model of alcohol seeking. Neuropsychopharmacology, 40(13), 2981-92.

Everitt, B.J. & Robbins, T.W. (2016) Drug Addiction: Updating Actions to Habits to Compulsions Ten Years On. Annual Review of Psychology, 67, 23-50.

Barnett JH, Blackwell AD, Sahakian BJ, Robbins TW. (2016) The Paired Associates Learning (PAL) Test: 30 years of CANTAB Translational Neuroscience from Laboratory to Bedside in Dementia Research. Curr Top Behav Neurosci., 28, 449-74.

Ersche KD, Gillan CM, Jones PS, Williams GB, Ward LH, Luijten M, de Wit S, Sahakian BJ, Bullmore ET, Robbins TW. (2016) Carrots and sticks fail to change behavior in cocaine addiction. Science, 352(6292), 1468-71.

Dalley JW, Robbins TW. (2017) Fractionating impulsivity: neuropsychiatric implications. Nat Rev Neurosci.,18(3), 158-171.

Apergis-Schoute AM, Gillan CM, Fineberg NA, Fernandez-Egea E, Sahakian BJ, Robbins TW. (2017) Neural basis of impaired safety signaling in Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 114(12), 3216-3221.

Vaghi MM, Vértes PE, Kitzbichler MG, Apergis-Schoute AM, van der Flier FE, Fineberg NA, Sule A, Zaman R, Voon V, Kundu P, Bullmore ET, Robbins TW. (2017) Specific Frontostriatal Circuits for Impaired Cognitive Flexibility and Goal-Directed Planning in Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: Evidence From Resting-State Functional Connectivity. Biol Psychiatry, 81(8), 708-717.

Robbins TW, Costa RM. (2017) Habits. Curr Biol., 27(22), R1200-R1206.

Vaghi MM, Luyckx F, Sule A, Fineberg NA, Robbins TW, De Martino B. (2017) Compulsivity Reveals a Novel Dissociation between Action and Confidence. Neuron. 96(2), 348-354.

Zmigrod L, Rentfrow J and Robbins TW (2018) Cognitive underpinnings of nationalistic ideology in the context of Brexit. Proc. Natl. Acd. Sci. USA 115(19):E4532-E4540

Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience
Director of Research, Behavioural and Clinical Neuroscience Institute

Contact Details

+44 (0)1223 (3)33551
Person keywords: 
Takes PhD students
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