Kent Hutchison
Professor • Behavioral Neuroscience • Clinical
Psychology and Neuroscience • Institute of Cognitive Science

Office: Muenzinger D327

Education: PhD in Clinical Psychology, Oklahoma State University, 1995

Research Interests: I have a long track record of NIH funding and publications related to alcohol abuse. Specifically, I am interested in combining neuroimaging, epigenetic, pharmacological, and clinical perspectives to develop more effective intervention and preventions strategies. Recently, we have focused on epigenetic and inflammatory mechanisms. Our most recent studies suggest that the neuroadaptations in that reward circuits that characterize alcohol dependence, and addiction more generally, may be driven by epigenetic changes in specific genes. Thus, medications that target epigenetic changes may mitigate some of the deleterious changes in reward circuits and represent a new strategy for the treatment of alcohol dependence. In a similar line of research, it is becoming increasing clear that inflammatory processes that result from alcohol abuse may damage important executive control circuits, ultimately contributing to loss of control over alcohol use. Thus, anti-inflammatory medications may also have a place in the treatment of alcohol dependence. 

In large part because of the change in Colorado law legalizing cannabis, we have become very interested in cannabinoids. Cannabinoids, and cannabidiol in particular, are thought to have anti-inflammatory properties that may be useful for treating a variety of inflammatory diseases and other conditions (arthritis, diabetes, seizures, anxiety, insomnia, etc.). We recently launched several studies to gather data about the effects of cannabinoids on inflammatory markers in blood and to test hypotheses about the effect of cannabinoids on subjective measures related to different diseases. In addition, we are working on a study that will examine the effect of different cannabinoids in the context of alcohol treatment which will test the hypothesis that cannabidiol may have a beneficial effect, due to its anti-inflammatory properties, for those who want to cut down or stop drinking.