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Professor Emma Robinson - University of Bristol. Bristol, , GB

Professor Emma Robinson Professor Emma Robinson

Professor of Psychopharmacology | University of Bristol


Improving the effectiveness of antidepressant drugs and the treatment of depression

Areas of Expertise (7)



Mental Health






Professor Emma Robinson is based in the School of Physiology, Pharmacology and Neuroscience. She studies the mechanisms of action of antidepressant drugs with a particular interest in identifying new ways to treat mood disorders. She is currently working with a new class of rapid-acting antidepressants which can provide a more effective and sustained treatment. Professor Robinson uses novel behavioural methods to examine issues such as the interaction between biological and psychological mechanisms and how these contribute to antidepressant treatment, anhedonia (a common symptom of depression where patients have a loss of interest in engaging in previously rewarding activities), and the treatment potential of drugs such as ketamine, psilocybin and other psychedelic drugs. Her work on studying emotional behaviour in non-human species has also led to studies with a focus on laboratory animal welfare.

These studies have now expanded to new research programmes designed to understand the mechanisms which underlie rapid acting antidepressants effects, including a programme with Boehringer Ingelheim which arose from an Innocentive Challenge competition. Professor Robinson is an Independent Expert Advisor on the Wellcome Trust Mental Health Strategy and has written a British Medical Association textbook of the year, 'Neuroanatomy and Neuroscience at a Glance'. She is actively involved in public engagement, organising the biennial Bristol Neuroscience Festival. She was also awarded the British Neuroscience Association’s Public Engagement in Neuroscience Award.






BNF 2 LMUK Bristol Neuroscience Festival | 10th Anniversary



Accomplishments (3)

Independent Expert Advisor, Wellcome Trust Mental Health Strategy


Best of Bristol Lecturer


Invited ECNP Plenary Speaker, Vienna


Education (2)

University of Bristol: Ph.D., Pharmacology 1999

University of Bristol: B.Sc., Pharmacology 1995

Media Appearances (3)

Stress in early life may up depression risk, says study

The Indian Express  online


“This study supports a wider body of literature which suggests that depression may develop from an interesting yet complex interaction between biological and psychological processes,” said Emma Robinson, professor at University of Bristol.

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How do you study stress in an animal?

Understanding Animal Research  online


It is known to play an important role in many diseases suggesting that both acute and chronic stress can cause illness leading to changes in behaviour and physiology. In this context, Professor Emma Robinson from the University of Bristol is interested in stress as a major risk factor in depression. Her works involved about 90% animal work and 10% human research.

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Is your statin affecting your memory? Study finds some commonly prescribed brands can impair brain function

Daily Mail  online


Bristol University researchers say their study tallies with reports of statin patients feeling ‘fuzzy-headed’ and ‘befuddled’. The team also said it was ‘highly likely’ other statins affected memory loss.

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Articles (5)

Comparison of acute treatment with delayed-onset versus rapid-acting antidepressants on effort-related choice behaviour


2020 Rationale Reward-related impairments are common in major depressive disorder (MDD) and may contribute to the loss of interest in pleasurable activities. A novel approach to studying reward-related decision-making are effort-based tasks; however, direct comparisons between delayed-onset and rapid-acting antidepressants (ADs) have not yet been carried out.

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Impulsivity is a heritable trait in rodents and associated with a novel quantitative trait locus on chromosome 1

Scientific Reports

2020 Impulsivity describes the tendency to act prematurely without appropriate foresight and is symptomatic of a number of neuropsychiatric disorders. Although a number of genes for impulsivity have been identified, no study to date has carried out an unbiased, genome-wide approach to identify genetic markers associated with impulsivity in experimental animals.

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Investigating hormone-induced changes in affective state using the affective bias test in male and female rats


2020 Recent clinical and pre-clinical research suggests that affective biases may play an important role in the development and perpetuation of mood disorders. Studies in animals have also revealed that similar neuropsychological processes can be measured in non-human species using behavioural assays designed to measure biases in learning and memory or decision-making.

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Comparison of conventional and rapid-acting antidepressants in a rodent probabilistic reversal learning task

Brain and Neuroscience Advances

2020 Deficits in reward processing are a central feature of major depressive disorder with patients exhibiting decreased reward learning and altered feedback sensitivity in probabilistic reversal learning tasks. Methods to quantify probabilistic learning in both rodents and humans have been developed, providing translational paradigms for depression research.

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Translating a rodent measure of negative bias into humans: the impact of induced anxiety and unmedicated mood and anxiety disorders

Psychological Medicine

2020 Mood and anxiety disorders are ubiquitous but current treatment options are ineffective for many sufferers. Moreover, a number of promising pre-clinical interventions have failed to translate into clinical efficacy in humans. Improved treatments are unlikely without better animal–human translational pipelines.

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