Trevor Robbins

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Trevor William Robbins
Born (1949-11-26) 26 November 1949 (age 71)[1]
Alma materJesus College, Cambridge
Spouse(s)Barbara Sahakian[1]
AwardsFellow of the Royal Society
Order of the British Empire
Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences
Grete Lundbeck European Brain Research Prize 2014
Scientific career
InstitutionsUniversity of Cambridge
Downing College, Cambridge
ThesisAn analysis of the behavioural effects of d-amphetamine (1975)
InfluencedRoshan Cools

Trevor William Robbins CBE FRS FMedSci is a Professor of cognitive neuroscience and former Head of the Department of Psychology at the University of Cambridge.[2] Robbins has an international reputation in the fields of cognitive neuroscience, behavioural neuroscience and psychopharmacology.[3]

Robbins is Director of the University of Cambridge Behavioural and Clinical Neuroscience Institute (BCNI).[1] He is a Fellow of Downing College[4] and Past-President of the British Neuroscience Association (BNA), the British Association for Psychopharmacology (BAP) and the European Behavioural Pharmacology Society (EBPS).[5]


Following admittance in Jesus College at the University of Cambridge, Robbins obtained his Bachelor of Arts (First Class Honours) in psychology in 1971.[6] Following this, he received his PhD degree from the University of Cambridge in 1975 for an analysis of the behavioural effects of Dextroamphetamine.[7]

Robbins is a keen chess player and represented both England Juniors in 1967 and the University of Cambridge as an undergraduate. He was once ranked in the top twenty players in England and had one of his wins from a Varsity match in 1970 featured as a classic game in The Sunday Times.[8][9]


Robbins was appointed as a Demonstrator in the Department of Experimental Psychology at the University of Cambridge in 1973. He was subsequently promoted to Lecturer and Reader, before becoming Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience in 1997.[6] Robbins was elected to the Chair, and therefore Head of Department, of Psychology in October 2002, stepping down from the latter role in 2017.[3]

The focus of Robbins' work is on the functions of the frontal lobes of the brain and their regulation by the chemical neurotransmitter systems in humans and other animals.[3] This work is relevant to neuropsychiatric disorders including schizophrenia, depression, drug addiction, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), as well as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases.[2][10] Robbins also employs psychological paradigms for investigating cognitive functions, including planning, decision making, learning, attention and self-control, often with brain imaging.[3][11] His research covers the mechanisms underlying possible cognitive enhancing effects of drugs[12] and understanding the causation and neural basis of drug addiction and impulsive-compulsive behaviour.[3][13]

The work of Robbins and his collaborators led to the formation of the BCNI in 2005, which is jointly funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC) and the Wellcome Trust.[14] Robbins is Director of the Institute, which focuses on translational work leading to the treatment of neuropsychiatric disorders.[6]

Robbins Chaired the MRC Neuroscience and Mental Health Research Board between 1995 and 1999,[6] and was co-leader of the UK Government 2005 Foresight Project entitled 'Drug Futures 2025?'.[15][16] He has also consulted for the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom on the state of UK research.[17] Since 2005, Robbins has been a Fellow of the Royal Society.[18] In addition, he is a Fellow of the British Psychological Society (since 1990)[6] and a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences (since 2000).[19]

Robbins has published over 750 full papers[20] in scientific journals, including Nature,[21] Brain,[22] Science[23] and Nature Neuroscience.[24] The ISI Web of Science credits Robbins with a Hirsch (h) index of 154[25] and is credited as one of the top cited authors in Neuroscience.[3] He has been an editor of the journal Psychopharmacology since 1980,[6][26] is a Member of the Editorial Board of the journal Science,[27] and is Co-Editor-in-Chief of the journal Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences.[28] In 2017-2018 he was a Guest Co-editor of a Theme Issue of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society.[29] Robbins has Co-Edited 7 books, including Psychology for Medicine,[30] The Neurobiology of Addiction[31] and Decision Making, Effect and Learning.[32]


Robbins' research uses neuropsychological tests, such as the Cambridge Neuropsychological Test Automated Battery (CANTAB), which he co-invented with Professor Barbara Sahakian in the 1980s.[10] CANTAB is now used at over 700 research institutes worldwide and is backed by over 1,200 peer-review articles.[33] Robbins serves as a Senior Consultant to Cambridge Cognition, a spin-out of the University of Cambridge. Cambridge Cognition now provides CANTAB.[34]

The CANTAB PAL touchscreen test, which assesses visual memory and new learning, received the highest rating of world-leading 4* grade from the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014.[35][36] Following this award, CANTAB and CANTAB PAL were highlighted in the Medical Schools Council 'Health of the Nation' 2015 publication, which described CANTAB as a boost to the UK economy.[37] Robbins is also a co-author of the neurochemical Functional Ensemble of Temperament model that mapped the functional roles of brain neurotransmitters to main aspects of behavioural regulation.[38][39]


Robbins has frequently appeared in press interviews to discuss his research such as The Guardian,[40] BBC News,[41] The Daily Express[42] and the Naked Scientists podcast.[43] He frequently engages the public in science, such as speaking at the Hay Festival[44] and participating in a feature on smart drugs for BBC Online.[45]


Robbins's work was acknowledged by the following honours and awards:

  • 2005 - (co-recipient) The Neuronal Plasticity Prize, which was awarded by the Ipsen Foundation for his work on motivation on learning.[46][47]
  • 2011 - (joint) Award of the American Psychological Association (APA) Distinguished Scientific Award for his research in experimental psychology and neuroscience.[6][48]
  • 2012 - Appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire in the 2012 UK New Year Honours for services to medical research.[49][50]
  • 2012 - The Award of the Angharad Dodds John Fellowship in Mental Health and Neuropsychiatry at Downing College, Cambridge.[51]
  • 2014 - (along with Professor Stanislas Dehaene and Professor Giacomo Rizzolatti) - The Award of the Grete Lundbeck European Brain Research Prize 2014, also known as The Brain Prize, for Robbins' pioneering research on higher brain mechanisms and his efforts to understand cognitive and behavioural disorders.[52][53] The award was presented at a Ceremony in Denmark in May 2014.[54]
  • 2015 - Robert Sommer Award for Research into Schizophrenia
  • 2015 - British Association for Psychopharmacology- Lifetime Achievement Award
  • 2016 - Gold Medal of the Society of Biological Psychiatry (USA)
  • 2017 - Patricia Goldman-Rakic Award in Cognitive Neuroscience
  • 2017 - Fellow, British Pharmacological Society (FBPhS)
  • 2018 - Honorary Professor, Fudan University, Shanghai, China
  • 2019 - British Psychological Society- Lifetime Achievement Award.

External links[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "ROBBINS, Prof. Trevor Robbins". Oxford University Press. A & C Black. 2014. Retrieved 25 March 2015.
  2. ^ a b "Profile: Professor Trevor Robbins". Cambridge Neuroscience. Retrieved 25 March 2015.
  3. ^ a b c d e f "Profile: Professor Trevor W. Robbins". University of Cambridge. Retrieved 25 March 2015.
  4. ^ "Fellow Profile: Professor Trevor Robbins". Downing College Cambridge. Retrieved 25 March 2015.
  5. ^ "CBE for Professor Trevor Robbins". The British Psychological Society. 3 January 2012. Archived from the original on 2 April 2015. Retrieved 25 March 2015.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g "Trevor W. Robbins: Award for Distinguished Scientific Contributions". The American Psychologist. 66 (8): 665–8. 2011. doi:10.1037/a0025179. PMID 22082379.
  7. ^ "An analysis of the behavioural effects of d-amphetamine". University of Cambridge Newton Library Catalogues. Retrieved 25 March 2015.
  8. ^ "Head of Department's classic chess game published in Sunday Times". University of Cambridge. 2 March 2015. Retrieved 25 March 2015.
  9. ^ "Chess Classic Game, Number 1442". The Times. Retrieved 25 March 2015.
  10. ^ a b Sahakian, BJ; Morris, RG; Evenden, JL; Heald, A; Levy, R; Philpot, M; Robbins, TW (1988). "A comparative study of visuospatial memory and learning in Alzheimer-type dementia and Parkinson's disease". Brain. 111 (3): 695–718. doi:10.1093/brain/111.3.695. PMID 3382917.
  11. ^ Mehta, MA; Owen, AM; Sahakian, BJ; Mavaddat, N; Pickard, JD; Robbins, TW (2000). "Methylphenidate enhances working memory by modulating discrete frontal and parietal lobe regions in the human brain". The Journal of Neuroscience. 20 (6): RC65. doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.20-06-j0004.2000. PMC 6772505. PMID 10704519.
  12. ^ Turner, DC; Robbins, TW; Clark, L; Aron, AR; Dowson, J; Sahakian, BJ (2003). "Cognitive enhancing effects of modafinil in healthy volunteers". Psychopharmacology. 165 (3): 260–9. doi:10.1007/s00213-002-1250-8. PMID 12417966.
  13. ^ Everitt, BJ; Robbins, TW (2005). "Neural systems of reinforcement for drug addiction: from actions to habits to compulsion". Nature Neuroscience. 8 (11): 1481–9. doi:10.1038/nn1579. PMID 16251991.
  14. ^ "Behavioural and Clinical Neuroscience Institute". University of Cambridge. Retrieved 25 March 2015.
  15. ^ "Foresight: Drug Futures 2025" (PDF). UK Government. 13 July 2005. Retrieved 25 March 2015.
  16. ^ "Brain-boost drugs 'to be common'". BBC News. 13 July 2005. Retrieved 25 March 2015.
  17. ^ "Professors brief Blair on scientific advances". Cambridge News. 7 November 2002. Retrieved 25 March 2015.
  18. ^ "Royal Society: 2005 Fellowships". Times Higher Education. 3 June 2005. Retrieved 25 March 2015.
  19. ^ "Fellow: Professor Trevor Robbins". The Academy of Medical Sciences. Retrieved 25 March 2015.
  20. ^ "Author Profile: Trevor W. Robbins". Microsoft Academic Search. Retrieved 25 March 2015.
  21. ^ Dias, R; Robbins, TW; Roberts, AC (1996). "Dissociation in prefrontal cortex of affective and attentional shifts". Nature. 380 (6569): 69–72. Bibcode:1996Natur.380...69D. doi:10.1038/380069a0. PMID 8598908.
  22. ^ Owen, AM; James, M; Leigh, PN; Summers, BA; Marsden, CD; Quinn, NP; Lange, KW; Robbins, TW (1992). "Fronto-striatal cognitive deficits at different stages of Parkinson's disease". Brain. 115 (6): 1727–51. doi:10.1093/brain/115.6.1727. PMID 1486458.
  23. ^ Dalley, JW; Fryer, TD; Brichard, L; Robinson, ES; Theobald, DE; Lääne, K; Peña, Y; Murphy, ER; Shah, Y; Probst, K; Abakumova, I; Aigbirhio, FI; Richards, HK; Hong, Y; Baron, JC; Everitt, BJ; Robbins, TW (2007). "Nucleus accumbens D2/3 receptors predict trait impulsivity and cocaine reinforcement". Science. 315 (5816): 1267–70. Bibcode:2007Sci...315.1267D. doi:10.1126/science.1137073. PMC 1892797. PMID 17332411.
  24. ^ Aron, AR; Fletcher, PC; Bullmore, ET; Sahakian, BJ; Robbins, TW (2003). "Stop-signal inhibition disrupted by damage to right inferior frontal gyrus in humans". Nature Neuroscience. 6 (2): 115–6. doi:10.1038/nn1003. PMID 12536210.
  25. ^ "Trevor W Robbins: Citation Report". Web of Science. Retrieved 25 March 2015.
  26. ^ "Psychopharmacology: Editorial Board". Springer. Retrieved 25 March 2015.
  27. ^ "Science Editorial Board". Science/AAAS. Retrieved 25 March 2015.
  28. ^ "Elsevier Announces the Launch of a New Journal: Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences". Elsevier. 30 June 2014. Retrieved 25 March 2015.
  29. ^ Trofimova, I.N.; Robbins, T.W.; W., Sulis; J., Uher (2018). "Taxonomies of psychological individual differences: biological perspectives on millennia-long challenges". Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences. 373 (1744): 20170152. doi:10.1098/rstb.2017.0152. PMC 5832678. PMID 29483338.
  30. ^ Cooper, PJ; Robbins, TW, eds. (1988). Psychology for Medicine. London: Arnold. ISBN 978-0-7131-4543-4.
  31. ^ Robbins, TW; Everitt, B; Nutt, D, eds. (2010). The Neurobiology of Addiction. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-956215-2.
  32. ^ Delgrado, MR; Phelps, EA; Robbins, TW, eds. (2011). Decision Making, Affect, and Learning: Attention and Performance XXIII. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0199600434.
  33. ^ "Company Information". Cambridge Cognition. Retrieved 25 March 2015.
  34. ^ "Science Team". Cambridge Cognition. Retrieved 25 March 2015.
  35. ^ "REF Impact Case Study – CANTAB-PAL". Research Excellence Framework. Retrieved 11 February 2015.
  36. ^ "World-leading UK medical research showcased in new publication". Medical Schools Council. 29 January 2015. Retrieved 11 February 2015.
  37. ^ "Health of the Nation" (PDF). Medical Schools Council. 2015. Archived from the original (PDF) on 11 February 2015. Retrieved 11 February 2015.
  38. ^ Trofimova, IN; Robbins, TW (2016). "Temperament and arousal systems: a new synthesis of differential psychology and functional neurochemistry". Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews. 64: 382–402. doi:10.1016/j.neubiorev.2016.03.008. PMID 26969100.
  39. ^ Robbins, T. W. (2018). "Opinion on monoaminergic contributions to traits and temperament". Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 373 (1744): 20170153. doi:10.1098/rstb.2017.0153. PMC 5832679. PMID 29483339.
  40. ^ Jha, Alok (14 July 2005). "Scientists predict brave new world of brain pills". The Guardian. Retrieved 25 March 2015.
  41. ^ Gill, Victoria (17 June 2009). "Rats play odds in gambling task". BBC News. Retrieved 25 March 2015.
  42. ^ Kolirin, Lianne (4 March 2013). "Why women's brains work best". Daily Express. Retrieved 25 March 2015.
  43. ^ "The Brain Prize!". The Naked Scientists. 20 March 2014. Retrieved 25 March 2015.
  44. ^ "Trevor Robbins, Sarah-Jayne Blakemore, Paul Howard-Jones and Barbara Sahakian". Hay Festival. Retrieved 25 March 2015.
  45. ^ Kohn, Marek (29 July 2014). "The truth about smart drugs". BBC Future. Retrieved 25 March 2015.
  46. ^ "Ipsen Foundation Seminar (18 March 2005)" (PDF). Foundation Ipsen. Retrieved 25 March 2015.
  47. ^ "The 25th Neuronal Plasticity Prize of the Fondation Ipsen Has Been Awarded to Barry J. Everitt (Cambridge, UK), George F. Koob (La Jolla, USA) and Michel Le Moal (Bordeaux, France)". Yahoo Finance. 11 July 2014. Retrieved 25 March 2015.
  48. ^ "Two professors win award". Cambridge News. 6 July 2011. Retrieved 25 March 2015.
  49. ^ "Supplement 60009". The London Gazette. 31 December 2011. p. 8. Retrieved 25 March 2015.
  50. ^ "Honours: Order of the British Empire, Civil – GBE, DBE, CBE". The Independent. 31 December 2011. Retrieved 25 March 2015.
  51. ^ "The Angharad Dodds John Fellowship in Mental Health and Neuropsychiatry". Downing College Cambridge. Retrieved 25 March 2015.
  52. ^ "The Brain Prize Winners 2014". Grete Lundbeck European Brain Research Foundation. Retrieved 2 January 2015.
  53. ^ "Professor Trevor Robbins wins the Brain Prize, 2014". Cambridge Neuroscience. 10 March 2014. Retrieved 2 January 2015.
  54. ^ "Professor Trevor W. Robbins awarded Brain Prize". University of Cambridge. 16 May 2014. Retrieved 2 January 2015.