Cynthia Moreton Kuhn
Cynthia Moreton Kuhn

Cynthia Kuhn

Professor of Pharmacology and Cancer Biology


This laboratory uses a multidisciplinary approach using both animal and model systems to study the biology of addiction and stress/depression. We are specifically interested in how adolescence and the hormonal changes of puberty and aging influence vulnerability to these conditions. Specific projects underway include: (1) the biology of sex differences in addictive drug action, (2) role of maturing dopamine systems in the onset of drug taking during adolescence, (3) the neurobiology of adolescent insensitivity to threat and its role in drug use.
Studies of sex differences focus on understanding estrogen and testosterone actions in the brain that are relevant to addiction, depression and stress-related behaviors. We are particularly interested in molecular targets of estrogen action including key proteins that regulate dopamine neurons and the stress peptide CRF. Current projects include the role of glucocorticoid and reproductive hormones in alcohol and opioid dependence in adolescence.  Adolescent studies are exploring the impact of maturing dopamine systems as well as cortical inhibition of these systems on novelty-seeking/risk taking as predictors of substance abuse vulnerability as well as responses to addictive drugs.
In addition to these animal studies, we collaborate actively with clinicians in psychiatry who are studying addiction and stress-related illness in humans, and participate in development of drug-abuse education and general neuroscience education materials for students, parents and other members of the lay public.


Professor of Pharmacology and Cancer Biology in the School of Medicine

1995 School of Medicine

Professor in Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences in the School of Medicine

2021 School of Medicine

Associate of the Duke Initiative for Science & Society in the University Initiatives & Academic Support Units

2020 University Initiatives & Academic Support Units

Member of the Duke Cancer Institute in the School of Medicine

2020 School of Medicine

Affiliate of the Center for Child and Family Policy in the Sanford School of Public Policy

2015 Sanford School of Public Policy

Faculty Network Member of the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences in the University Institutes and Centers

2008 University Institutes and Centers


Ph.D. 1976

1976 Duke University

Publications, Grants & Awards

Offices & Contact

308 Research Drive
Durham, NC
Duke Box 3813
Durham, NC