• Psychiatry
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    Professor Karen Ersche

    University Position


    My research focuses on the neuropsychological correlates and neurochemical processes underlying addictive behaviour and the translation of this knowledge into therapeutic interventions. This work involves a combination of approaches including neuroimaging, neuropsychological testing, and pharmacological intervention. My present project investigates the question of causality, namely whether the neurobiological abnormalities seen in stimulant-dependent individuals are an effect of their long-term exposure to potentially neurotoxic drugs or whether these are the result of a genetic predisposition. I believe that a better understanding of the underlying mechanisms involved in drug addiction has the potential to clarify the health risks associated with drug abuse and to facilitate a more rational development of therapeutic interventions. It may also help to reduce the widespread stigma attached to people who have become dependent on drugs, thus further improving their prospects of recovery.

    Key Publications

    Theory-driven computational models of drug addiction in humans: Fruitful or futile?

    Journal: Addiction Neuroscience
    E-pub date: 1 Mar 2023
    Authors: TV Lim, KD Ersche

    Impaired Learning From Negative Feedback in Stimulant Use Disorder: Dopaminergic Modulation.

    Journal: Int J Neuropsychopharmacol
    E-pub date: 12 Nov 2021
    Authors: TV Lim, RN Cardinal, ET Bullmore, TW Robbins, KD Ersche

    Impairments in reinforcement learning do not explain enhanced habit formation in cocaine use disorder.

    Journal: Psychopharmacology (Berl)
    E-pub date: 31 Aug 2019
    Authors: TV Lim, RN Cardinal, G Savulich, PS Jones, AA Moustafa, TW Robbins, KD Ersche

    Creature of Habit: A self-report measure of habitual routines and automatic tendencies in everyday life.

    Journal: Pers Individ Dif
    E-pub date: 1 Oct 2017
    Authors: KD Ersche, T-V Lim, LHE Ward, TW Robbins, J Stochl


    Cortical glutamate and GABA are related to compulsive behaviour in individuals with obsessive compulsive disorder and healthy controls.

    Journal: Nat Commun
    E-pub date: 27 Jun 2023
    Authors: M Biria, P Banca, MP Healy, E Keser, SJ Sawiak, CT Rodgers, C Rua, AMFLP de Souza, AA Marzuki, A Sule, KD Ersche, TW Robbins

    The ‘Resilient Brain’: challenging key characteristics associated with the concept of resilience.

    Journal: Psychol Med
    E-pub date: 25 Jan 2023
    Authors: G Savulich, E Ferry-Bolder, TV Lim, E Mak, KD Ersche

    Reduced Glutamate Turnover in the Putamen Is Linked With Automatic Habits in Human Cocaine Addiction.

    Journal: Biol Psychiatry
    E-pub date: 15 May 2021
    Authors: KD Ersche, TV Lim, AG Murley, C Rua, MM Vaghi, TL White, GB Williams, TW Robbins

    Impulsivity and compulsivity are differentially associated with automaticity and routine on the Creature of Habit Scale.

    Journal: Pers Individ Dif
    E-pub date: 1 Nov 2019
    Authors: KD Ersche, LHE Ward, T-V Lim, RJ Lumsden, SJ Sawiak, TW Robbins, J Stochl

    Dopaminergic modulation of reinforcement learning in stimulant drug addiction

    E-pub date: 1 Aug 2019
    Authors: TV Lim, RN Cardinal, C Meng, GK Murray, KJ Craig, S Abbott, SS Shabbir, J Suckling, BJ Sahakian, ET Bullmore, TW Robbins, KD Ersche

    Deconstructing appetitive learning in cocaine addiction using hierarchical Bayesian modelling

    E-pub date: 1 Aug 2019
    Authors: TV Lim, RN Cardinal, PS Jones, TW Robbins, KD Ersche

    Carrots and sticks fail to change behavior in cocaine addiction.

    Journal: Science
    E-pub date: 17 Jun 2016
    Authors: KD Ersche, CM Gillan, PS Jones, GB Williams, LHE Ward, M Luijten, S de Wit, BJ Sahakian, ET Bullmore, TW Robbins

    Prefrontal hypoactivity associated with impaired inhibition in stimulant-dependent individuals but evidence for hyperactivation in their unaffected siblings.

    Journal: Neuropsychopharmacology
    E-pub date: 1 Sep 2013
    Authors: S Morein-Zamir, P Simon Jones, ET Bullmore, TW Robbins, KD Ersche

    Abnormal brain structure implicated in stimulant drug addiction.

    Journal: Science
    E-pub date: 3 Feb 2012
    Authors: KD Ersche, PS Jones, GB Williams, AJ Turton, TW Robbins, ET Bullmore

    Abnormal structure of frontostriatal brain systems is associated with aspects of impulsivity and compulsivity in cocaine dependence.

    Journal: Brain
    E-pub date: 1 Jul 2011
    Authors: KD Ersche, A Barnes, PS Jones, S Morein-Zamir, TW Robbins, ET Bullmore

    Impaired visuospatial associative memory and attention in obsessive compulsive disorder but no evidence for differential dopaminergic modulation.

    Journal: Psychopharmacology (Berl)
    E-pub date: 1 Oct 2010
    Authors: S Morein-Zamir, KJ Craig, KD Ersche, S Abbott, U Muller, NA Fineberg, ET Bullmore, BJ Sahakian, TW Robbins