(function() { var ga = document.createElement('script'); ga.type = 'text/javascript'; ga.async = true; ga.src = ('https:' == document.location.protocol ? 'https://ssl' : 'http://www') + '.google-analytics.com/ga.js'; var s = document.getElementsByTagName('script')[0]; s.parentNode.insertBefore(ga, s); })(); skip to primary navigationskip to content

BJS & TWR: Cambridge in America event

last modified Jan 06, 2016 03:03 PM
This is the script used for these fund-raising events for CAm events following receptions at Carnegie Hall, New York City and The Ferry Building, San Francisco.

Professor Barbara Sahakian and Professor Trevor Robbins: 

‘Cambridge in America’ presentation 


Dear distinguished guests, my name is Barbara

 And my name is Trevor

Before we talk about what we do we’d like to illustrate the scope of what we do…

…there are 200 of us in this room.  Now, statistically speaking, many of us will be affected by cancer and heart disease.  But what will affect at least 50 of us (that’s 1 in 4), is some form of mental disorder…

…from Dementia to Depression, from Parkinson’s to Huntington’s, from OCD to ADHD, mental disorder is the big 21st century challenge that will affect all of us, directly, or indirectly, personally, and economically

Our work tackles these issues from different viewpoints.


Sometimes our views converge, sometimes they don’t:

I look hard at the circuits in the brain, especially the frontal lobes behind your eyes, and how they function, or more importantly, malfunction…

…whilst I look hard at people, and how they function, and malfunction.

Most of us know that the incidence of Alzheimer’s rockets upwards from the age of 65 onwards…

…but did you know that 75% of mental disorder begins before the age of 24, and 50% under the age of 18?  If we could detect it earlier, the benefits to all of us would be immense.

I came into this area inspired by Crick and Watson’s genetic discoveries in the 1960s. Then I began to find some interesting parallels in the way that people hooked on amphetamines behaved in a similar way to schizophrenics…

…and I first knew what I wanted to do, when I was a teenager and took summer jobs at Harvard testing Huntington’s patients.  I became hooked on the study of human beings and their behavior.

I began to examine what it really meant to be ‘weak willed’ and discovered in drug addicts that parts of their frontal lobes really are weak.  With detection and the right interventions, we could build resilience and change behavior, before it gets too late.

I began looking at the clues that might help us spot Alzheimer’s early, such as the lapses in episodic memory that make us forget where our keys are when we come home, or where we parked the car in that multi-storey car park…  If we could detect Alzheimer’s just 3 years earlier, that would make a critical difference to how we can treat it.

Eventually, we collaborated on computerised tests designed to help with early detection, called the CANTAB battery…


…which can run on I pads

…and now is in use in over 50 countries.  It’s become a key test battery for the early onset of mental difficulties

The next project for me is a better understanding of depression.  Depressives see the world from a uniquely bleak point of view.  We’re beginning to see the world through their eyes, and soon we’ll be able to genuinely help…

Next for me is an Institute dedicated to ‘translating’ the discoveries we make in our labs and field studies into real, clinical trials – taking the hard neuroscience and producing real world solutions. For example, we found that the anti Narcolepsy drug Modafinil can help junior surgeons stay awake and, importantly, off caffeine, (which can give them the shakes – not ideal for a surgeon), and we‘ve also used this drug experimentally to improve aspects of thinking in patients with schizophrenia. We’re convinced there will be other drugs that could be repurposed in this way…

And I’ve been turning our tests into computer games to improve motivation and memory in these same patients with schizophrenia.  So, we may look at these big problems from different angles…

…but our end-game is the same, and the need is immense.

Because the world needs us to tackle mental health…

The world demands that we tackle mental health…

and we will do this











RSS Feed Latest news

BJS & TWR: Cambridge in America event

Jan 05, 2016

This is the script used for these fund-raising events for CAm events following receptions at Carnegie Hall, New York City and The Ferry Building, San Francisco.

View all news