Prof Trevor ROBBINS

Senior Scientific Advisor

Prof 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. His current research is focused on impulsive-compulsive disorders (such as OCD and drug addiction) and fronto-striatal systems of the brain.

Prof Robbins 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.




Research Interest

Prof Robbins' research interests span the areas of cognitive neuroscience, behavioural neuroscience and psychopharmacology. His 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.

He is 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 he co-invented. He also employs 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,

He is 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

Google Scholar Link

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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., Turton, A.J., Robbins, T.W. & Bullmore, E.T. (2012) Abnormal brain structure implicated in stimulant drug addiction. Science, 335, 601-604.

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).

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.

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

Everitt, B., Robbins, T. Neural systems of reinforcement for drug addiction: from actions to habits to compulsion. Nat Neurosci 8, 1481–1489 (2005).

Aron AR, Robbins TW, Poldrack RA. Inhibition and the right inferior frontal cortex. Trends Cogn Sci. 4 (2004), 170-7. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2004.02.010. PMID: 15050513.


Prof Robbins 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". In 2018, he became an Honorary Professor at Fudan University, Shanghai.

2022 - Clarivate Highly Cited Researcher
2022 - Listed as World's Top 100 Neuroscientists by
2022 - William James Fellow
2017 - Patricia Goldman-Rakic Award for Cognitive Neuroscience
2017 - Gold Medal from the Society of Biological Psychiatry
2016 - Lifetime Achievement Award of the British Association for Psychopharmacology
2016 - Robert Sommer Medal for research into schizophrenia (Joint with Prof Barbara Sahakian)
2014 - Grete Lundbeck European Brain Research Prize (€ 1 million) for outstanding contributions to European neuroscience. (Co-shared with Giacomo Rizzolatti and Stanislas Dehaene)
2012 - Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE): Civil Division for contributions to medical research in the New Year Honours List of 2012.
2011 - American Psychological Association Award for Distinguished Scientific Contributions (Joint with Prof Barry J. Everitt)
2005 - IPSEN Fondation Neuroplasticity
2000 - Inaugural European Behavioural Society "Distinguished Scientific Contribution"