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Dee Higley, Professor

Department: Psychology



Dr. Higley is a professor of psychology at Young University. He received his Ph.D. in Child Development and Primate Behavior from the University of Wisconsin. For nearly two decades, Dr. Higley headed the National Institutes of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism’s intramural nonhuman primate research program, located just outside of Washington, DC. Dr. Higley is recognized as an international expert in serotonin-mediated temperament and personality, and developmental psychopathology. More recently has received a good deal of interest for his teams’ discovery that genes that modulate behavior function differently depending on the environmental setting.


  • PhD, University of Wisconsin–Madison, 1985
  • MS, University of Wisconsin–Madison, 1983
  • BS, Brigham Young University, 1980

Research Interests

Professor Higley is recognized as an international expert in serotonin-mediated temperament and personality, and developmental psychopathology. His research uses rhesus macaques to model features of human alcohol abuse and alcoholism and their related behaviors and biochemistry. The studies have focused on the development of neurobiological mechanisms, as mediated by early experience and genetic influences. The importance of mothers in development is primary to his research focus. Secondary measures such as temperament, and other behavioral measures are used as early life predictors of alcohol abuse, violence, and anxiety. Included in this program is the use of a large database of various behavior, rearing, genetic and neurochemical measures that are to assess the behavioral outcomes and early predictors of alcohol intake and violent behavior. Ongoing research performed at the University of California National Primate Center allows students to act as summer interns collecting data from the monkeys. Neuroimaging and other traditional approaches are used to study the brain of the monkeys prone to excessive alcohol intake. A major aspect of the research is based on he and his colleagues discovery that genes that modulate behavior function differently depending on the environmental. This focus on gene X environment interactions, has led to research on how genetic influences are modulated by parents, situations, sex, and the genotype of a partner. His publications focus on the effect of parental treatment and genetic influences on alcohol abuse, violence, impulsivity, and individual differences. Recent studies have been initiated to design a nonhuman primate model of ADHD.


  • Promotion to Fellow, American College of Neuropsychopharmacology
  • Nominated to run for the office of Executive Secretary, American Society of Primatology, American Society of Primatology, 2010
  • Nominated to Run for the office of Treasurer, American Society of Primatology, American Society of Primatology, 2005

Professional Affiliations

  • Mormon History Association
  • Research Society on Alcoholism
  • American College of Neuropsychopharmacology
  • American Society of Primatologists
  • Society for Neuroscience

Publication Info

  • James Dee Higley (2016). Higley, J.D. Epigenetics. The SAGE Encyclopedia of Theory in Psychology.
  • Carol A. Shively, Thomas C. Register, James Dee Higley, Stephanie L. Willard (2014). Sertraline effects on cerebrospinal fluid monoamines and species-typical socioemotional behavior of female cynomolgus monkeys. Psychopharmacology.
  • Gloria L. Fawcett, Amanda M. Dettmer, Daniel Kay, Muthuswamy Raveendran, James Dee Higley, Neal D. Ryan, Judy L. Cameron, Jeff Rogers (2014). Quantitative Genetics of Response to Novelty and Other Stimuli by Infant Rhesus Macaques (Macaca mulatta) Across Three Behavioral Assessments. International Journal of Primatology.
  • Andrea N. Sorenson, Erin C. Sullivan, Sally P. Mendosa, John P. Capitanio, James Dee Higley (2013). Serotonin transporter genotype modulates HPA axis output during stress: effect of stress, dexamethasone test and ACTH challenge. Translational Developmental Psychiatry.
  • Whitney F Espinel, James Dee Higley (2013). A Nonhuman Primate Model of Serotonin-Mediated Violence and Antisocial Behavior—A Decade-and-a-Half Update. Serotonin: Biosynthesis, Regulation and Health Implications.
  • Simona Spinelli, Melanie L Schwandt, Stephen G Lindell, Markus Heilig, Stephen J Suomi, James Dee Higley, David Goldman, Christina S Barr (2012). The serotonin transporter gene linked polymorphic region is associated with the behavioral response to repeated stress exposure in infant rhesus macaques. Developmental Psychopathology.
  • Stephen Lindell, Qiaoping Yuan, Zhifeng Zhou, David Goldman, Robert Thompson, Juan Lopez, Suomi J Suomi, James Dee Higley, Christina S Barr (2012). The serotonin transporter gene is a substrate for age and stress dependent epigenetic regulation in rhesus macaque brain: potential roles in genetic selection and gene × environment interactions. Developmental Psychopathology.
  • Qiaoping Yuan, Zhifeng Zhou, Stephen G. Lindell, J. Dee Higley, Betsy Ferguson, Robert C. Thompson, Juan F Lopez, Stephen J. Suomi, Basel Baghal, Maggie Baker, Deborah C. Mash, Christina S Barr, David Goldman (2012). The rhesus macaque is three times as diverse but more closely equivalent in damaging coding variation as compared to the human. BMC Genetics.
  • Tarique D. Perera, Andrew J. Dwork, Kathryn A. Keegan, Lakshmi Thirumangalakudi, Cecilla M. Lipira, Niamh Joyce, Christopher Lange, James Dee Higley, Gorazd Rosoklija, Rene Hen, Harold A. Sackeim, Jeremy D. Coplan (2011). Necessity of hippocampal neurogenesis for the therapeutic action of antidepressants in adult nonhuman primates. PLoS One.
  • James Dee Higley, Andrew C. Chaffin, Stephen J. Suomi (2011). Impulsivity and Aggression as Personality Traits in Nonhuman Primates. Personality and Behavioral Syndromes in Nonhuman Primates: Developments in Primatology.