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Professor Barbara Sahakian featured in Netflix documentary ‘Paul Merson: Football, Gambling, and Me’

23 November 2023 Fellows

Congratulations to Barbara Sahakian, Fellow of Clare Hall and Professor of Clinical Neuropsychology in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Cambridge, for her feature in the documentary ‘Paul Merson: Football, Gambling, and Me.’

The documentary explores the challenges of gambling and addiction as seen through the eyes of Paul Merson, a former Arsenal and England footballer. Paul sets out to understand why he struggled with a gambling addiction from a young age, and whether the causes were due to his biology, his environment, or both.

Paul travels to Cambridge to meet with Professor Sahakian, one of the UK’s leading experts on the psychology of gambling addiction, to complete the CANTAB Gambling Task. The task, co-invented by Professor Sahakian, involves giving the participant 100 points, of which they must decide how many to gamble in a series of games.

Professor Sahakian analysed the results with Paul, and highlighted his tendency for high levels of risk-taking compared to those with and without gambling addictions in his age category. They also discussed parallels between Paul’s approach to football as a ‘sensation-seeker’ and ‘all-or-nothing’ player, and his attitude towards gambling.

Professor Sahakian featured in ‘Paul Merson: Football, Gambling, and Me

The documentary also explores the future of gambling in sports, seeking to develop new treatments on a neurobiological basis and considering reform to gambling laws to better protect younger generations.

The full documentary can be found here. Read more about Professor Sahakian and her research here.