Dee Higley, Professor

Department: Psychology



Office: 1042 KMBL

Phone: 801-422-7139



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.

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 from American College of Neuropsychopharmacology, 2008
  • Nominated to run for the office of Executive Secretary, American Society of Primatology from American Society of Primatology, 2010
  • Nominated to Run for the office of Treasurer, American Society of Primatology from 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

Recent Publications

  • Baxter, A., Wood, E., Jarman, P., Cameron, A., Capitanio, J., & Higley, J. (2018). Sex Differences in Rhesus Monkeys’ Digit Ratio (2D:4D Ratio) and Its Association with Maternal Social Dominance Rank. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 42, 424-431.
  • Taylor, K., Newton, T., Christensen, M., Jamison, N. K., Chamberlain, P., Johnston, O., & Higley, J. (2017). Psychophysiological and behavioral responses to an intruder threat task in autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 47, 3704-3713.
  • Norseth, T. J., Wood, E. K., Skidmore, M. A., Herron, C., & Higley, J. (forthcoming). Agedness and Long-Term Adult Bonds Increase the Risk for Depression-Like Behavior During Social Separation in Rhesus Macaques (Macaca mulatta): A Study of Age Differences in Depression using a Nonhuman Primate Model. American Journal of Primatology.
  • Higley, J. (2016). Higley, J.D. Epigenetics. The SAGE Encyclopedia of Theory in Psychology., 291-294.
  • Capitanio, J. P., Blozis, S. A., Snarr, J., Miller, A., & Higley, J. (forthcoming). Do “birds of a feather flock together” or do “opposites attract”? Behavioral responses and temperament predict success in pairings of rhesus monkeys in a laboratory setting.. American Journal of Primatology, 7.
  • Shively, C. A., Register, T. C., Higley, J., & Willard, S. L. (2014). Sertraline effects on cerebrospinal fluid monoamines and species-typical socioemotional behavior of female cynomolgus monkeys. Psychopharmacology, 232, [Epub ahead of print].
  • Higley, J. (2014). Quantitative Genetics of Response to Novelty and Other Stimuli by Infant Rhesus Macaques (Macaca mulatta) Across Three Behavioral Assessments. International Journal of Primatology, 35, 325–339.
  • Sorenson, A. N., Sullivan, E. C., Mendosa, S. P., Capitanio, J. P., & Higley, J. (2013). Serotonin transporter genotype modulates HPA axis output during stress: effect of stress, dexamethasone test and ACTH challenge. Translational Developmental Psychiatry, 1, 7.
  • Espinel, W. F., & Higley, J. (2013). A Nonhuman Primate Model of Serotonin-Mediated Violence and Antisocial Behavior—A Decade-and-a-Half Update. Serotonin: Biosynthesis, Regulation and Health Implications.
  • Roberg, B. L., Schwandt, M. L., Fairbanks, L. A., Barr, C. S., Suomi, S. J., & Higley, J. (forthcoming). Resident-genotype by intruder-genotype mediated violence: A primate model investigating gene by environment interactions.. In Archives of General Psychiatry.
  • Spinelli, S., Schwandt, M. L., Lindell, S. G., Heilig, M., Suomi, S. J., Higley, J., Barr, C. S. (2012). The serotonin transporter gene linked polymorphic region is associated with the behavioral response to repeated stress exposure in infant rhesus macaques. Developmental Psychopathology, 24, 157-165.
  • Lindell, S., Yuan, Q., Zhou, Z., Goldman, D., Thompson, R., Lopez, J., Barr, C. S. (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, 24, 1391-1400.
  • Espinel, W. F., Sorenson, A. N., Shannon, C., Schwandt, M. L., Lindell, S. G., Barr, C. S., Higley, J. (forthcoming). A longitudinal study of the effect of adoption on infant behavior and adolescent alcohol intake: A nonhuman primate model. Psychopharmacology.
  • Yuan, Q., Zhou, Z., Lindell, S. G., Higley, J. D., Ferguson, B., Thompson, R. C., Goldman, D. (2012). The rhesus macaque is three times as diverse but more closely equivalent in damaging coding variation as compared to the human. BMC Genetics, 13, 12 pages, doi:10.1017/S0954579411000745.
  • Iosif, A., Abbott, K. J., Bulechowsky, M., Rogers, J., Devlin, B. J., Higley, J. D., Cameron, J. L. (forthcoming). An Endophenotype Linked to Alcoholism: Heritability of Low Motor Response to Alcohol in Alcohol Naïve Monkeys. .
  • Perera, T. D., Dwork, A. J., Keegan, K. A., Thirumangalakudi, L., Lipira, C. M., Joyce, N., Coplan, J. D. (2011). Necessity of hippocampal neurogenesis for the therapeutic action of antidepressants in adult nonhuman primates.. PLoS One, 6, 1-13.
  • Higley, J., Chaffin, A. C., & Suomi, S. J. (2011). Impulsivity and Aggression as Personality Traits in Nonhuman Primates. Personality and Behavioral Syndromes in Nonhuman Primates: Developments in Primatology, 257-284.
  • Higley, J., Chaffin, A. C., & Suomi, S. J. (2011). Reactivity and Behavioral Inhibition as Personality Traits in Nonhuman Primates.. In Weiss, A. and King, J (Eds.), Reactivity and Behavioral Inhibition as Personality Traits in Nonhuman Primates.. New York: Springer Press.
  • Schwandt, M. L., Lindell, S. G., Higley, J., Suomi, S. J., Heilig, M., & Barr, C. S. (2011). OPRM1 gene variation influences hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis function in response to a variety of stressors in rhesus macaques.. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 36, 1303-1311.
  • Lindell, S. G., Schwandt, M. L., Sun, H., Sparenborg, J. D., Bjoerk, K., Kasckow, J. W., Barr, C. S. (2010). Functional NPY variation as a factor in stress resilience and alcohol consumption in rhesus macaques. Archives of General Psychiatry, 67, 423-431.
  • Spinelli, S., Chefer, S., Carson, R. E., Jagoda, E., Lang, L., Heilig, M., Stein, E. A. (2010). Effects of early-life stress on serotonin(1A) receptors in juvenile Rhesus monkeys measured by positron emission tomography. Biological Psychiatry, 67, 1146-1153.
  • Higley, J., Jedema, H. P., Gianaros, P. J., Greer, P. J., Kerr, D. D., Liu, S., Bradberry, C. W. (2010). Cognitive impact of genetic variation of the serotonin transporter in primates is associated with differences in brain morphology rather than serotonin neurotransmission. Molecular Psychiatry, 15, 512–446.
  • Schwandt, M. L., Lindell, S. G., Sjöberg, R. L., Chisholm, K. L., Higley, J., Suomi, S. J., Barr, C. S. (2010). Gene-environment interactions and response to social intrusion in male and female rhesus macaques. Biological Psychiatry, 67, 323-330.
  • Wargelius, H., Fahlke, C., Suomi, S. J., Oreland, L., & Higley, J. (2010). Platelet monoamine oxidase activity predicts alcohol sensitivity and voluntary alcohol intake in rhesus monkeys. Upsala Journal of Medical Sciences, 115, 49-55.
  • Schwandt, M. L., Lindell, S. G., Chen, S., Higley, J., Suomi, S. J., Heilig, M., & Barr, C. S. (2010). Alcohol response and consumption in adolescent rhesus macaques: Life history and genetic influences. Alcohol, 44, 67-80.
  • Kay, D. B., Marsiske, M., Suomi, S. J., & Higley, J. (2010). Exploratory factor analysis of human infant temperament in the rhesus monkey. In Infant Behavior and Development (pp. 111-114).
  • McCormack, K., Newman, T. K., Higley, J., Maestripieri, D., & Sanchez, M. M. (2009). Serotonin transporter gene variation, infant abuse, and responsiveness to stress in rhesus macaque mothers and infants.. In Hormones and Behavior.