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Professor Barbara J Sahakian DSc FMedSci

Professor Barbara J Sahakian, DSc FMedSci

Professor of Clinical Neuropsychology

President of the International Neuroethics Society

Past-President of the British Association for Psychopharmacology

Office Phone: (7)68506


Barbara J Sahakian is Professor of Clinical Neuropsychology at the University of Cambridge Department of Psychiatry and MRC/Wellcome Trust Behavioural and Clinical Neuroscience Institute. She is also an Honorary Clinical Psychologist at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge. She holds a PhD and a DSc from the University of Cambridge. She is President of the International Neuroethics Society, Past-President of the British Association for Psychopharmacology and a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences. She is co-author of ‘Bad Moves: How decision making goes wrong and the ethics of smart drugs’ (Oxford University Press, 2013) and co-editor of The Oxford Handbook of Neuroethics (OUP, 2011). She is a member of ACNP, CINP Council and ECNP Review Board and a member of the Human Brain Project.

Sahakian has an international reputation in the fields of psychopharmacology, neuropsychology, neuropsychiatry, neuroimaging and neuroethics. She is perhaps best known for her work on ‘hot’ and ‘cold’ cognitive deficits in depression and early detection and early treatment with cholinesterase inhibitors in Alzheimer’s disease. She has over 390 publications in high impact scientific journals. The ISI Web of Science database credits her with a Hirsch (h) index of 100, with some publications having over 300 citations. Sahakian co-invented the neuropsychological CANTAB tests. She serves as a Senior Consultant to Cambridge Cognition, a University of Cambridge spin-out that provides CANTAB. She is also a Consultant for Peak (Brainbow). Sahakian has contributed to Neuroscience and Mental Health Government Policy and has spoken on resilience, brain health, neuroscience and mental health at the World Economic Forum, Davos, 2014. She is a member of the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on Brain Research. She was also a finalist for a World Technology Award 2014 under the category of 'Health and Medicine'.

Departments and Institutes


Research Interests

My research is aimed at understanding the neural basis of cognitive, emotional and behavioural dysfunction in order to develop more effective pharmacological and psychological treatments. The focus of my lab is on early detection, differential diagnosis and proof of concept studies using cognitive enhancing drugs. This research utilises neuropsychological tests, such as the CANTAB tests, which I co-invented and a focus remains on the development of novel tests. Current study participants include healthy volunteers and patient groups with brain injury, Alzheimer’s disease, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), obsessive compulsive disorder, substance abuse, depression and mania. Techniques used include psychopharmacological, neuropsychological, neuroimaging (fMRI and PET) and genetic ones. Results from recent studies of ecstasy use and cognitive enhancement using methylphenidate, modafinil and atomoxetine have led to an interest in pharmacogenomics and neuroethics.

Key Publications

Swainson R, Hodges JR, Galton CJ, Semple J, Michael A, Dunn BD, Iddon JL, Robbins TW, Sahakian BJ (2001) Early detection and differential diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease and depression with neuropsychological tasks. Dementia and Geriatric Cognitive Disorders, 12, 265-280.

Turner DC, Robbins TW, Clark L, Aron AR, Dowson J, Sahakian BJ (2003) Cognitive enhancing effects of modafinil in healthy volunteers. Psychopharmacology, 165, 260-269.

Chamberlain SR, Muller U, Blackwell AD, Clark L, Robbins TW, Sahakian BJ (2006) Neurochemical Modulation of Response Inhibition and Probabilistic Learning in Humans. Science, 311, 861-863.

Sahakian BJ, Bruhl AB, Cook J, Killikelly C, Savulich, G, Piercy T, Hafizi S, Perez J, Fernandez-Egea E, Suckling J, Jones PB (2015) The impact of neuroscience on society: Cognitive enhancement in neuropsychiatric disorders and in healthy people. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, 370.