Columbia University Medical Center


James Curley, PhD

James Curley, PhD
  • Department of Psychology (Columbia University)
  • Assistant Professor of Psychology (Columbia University)

Dr Curley's lab studies the complex dynamics of social behavior in mice.  We house large groups of mice in spacious vivaria and track the behavioral interactions of individuals over several weeks using a combination of live focal sampling and video and RFID tracking. We have discovered that male mice form highly linear social hierarchies where each individual is able to recognize their own position within the social hierarchy.  We have also found that mouse social networks are highly stable over time but that individual mice are able to dynamically adjust their behavior when the hierarchy is disrupted.   Current projects are using statistical modeling approaches to investigate how relative social status influences the sequential and temporal patterning of agonistic and affiliative behaviors as well as investigating the neural circuitry underlying these complex social interactions.


I have very broad interests in behavioral development. I have conducted and published research at molecular, systems, organismal and evolutionary levels of analysis in both animals and humans. Details of some of this work will be found on the research page.

The focus of my lab at Columbia is on the development of social behavior. Briefly, I am interested in how both inherited genetic variability and social experiences during development can shift individual differences in various aspects of social behavior and what the neuroendocrinological basis of these differences may be. I am also interested in the reliability and validity of social behavioral tests condcuted in the laboratory and whether it is possible to utilize alternative statistical and methodological approaches to more appropriately assess social behavior. I also believe that it is critical to understand how the 'social brains' of humans and other animals have been differentially shaped by evolution and to acknowledge how this should better inform translational research.

Education & Training

  • PhD, 2003 Behavioral Neuroscience, University of Cambridge (United Kingdom)
  • Lab Locations

    Schermerhorn Hall

    1190 Amsterdam Ave
    Room 406, Mail Code: 5501
    New York, NY 10027

    (212) 854-7033

    Lab Website

    Past Positions

    • 2009-2012: Associate Research Scientist, Psychology Department, Columbia University.
    • 2007-2012: Adjunct Professor, Psychology Department, Columbia University.
    • 2010 Adjunct Professor: Biology Department, Barnard College.
    • 2007-2009: Post-doctoral Scientist, Psychology Department, Columbia University.
    • 2005-2007: Charles and Katharine Darwin Research Fellow, Darwin College, Cambridge University.
    • 2003-2007: Post-doctoral Scientist, Department of Animal Behaviour, Cambridge University.
    • 1999-2003: PhD Student, Department of Animal Behaviour, Cambridge University.
    • 1996-1999 BA (Hons) Human Sciences, Somerville College, Oxford University.

    Research Interests

    Social Behavior
    Social networks
    Social dominance
    Cognitive/Systems neuroscience
    Behavioral development

    Lab Members


    So N., et al., 2015, A Social Network Approach Reveals Associations between Mouse Social Dominance and Brain Gene Expression, PLoS One.

    Branchi I, et al. 2013, Early interactions with mother and peers independently build adult social skills and shape BDNF and oxytocin receptor brain levels, Psychoneuroendocrinology 38: 522-532.

    Silver R & Curley JP, 2013, Mast cells on the mind: new insights and opportunities, Trends in Neurosciences.

    Curley JP, Jensen CL, Franks B & Champagne FA, 2012, Variation in maternal and anxiety-like behavior associated with discrete patterns of oxytocin and vasopressin 1a receptor density in the lateral septum. Hormones & Behavior 61: 454-461.

    Mashoodh R, Franks B, Curley JP, Champagne FA, 2012, Paternal social enrichment effects on maternal behavior and offspring growth,Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 109 Suppl 2:17232-8.

    Swaney WT, Dubose BN, Curley JP, Champagne FA, 2012, Sexual experience affects reproductive behavior and preoptic androgen receptors in male mice, Hormones & Behavior 61: 472-478.

    Curley JP, 2011, Is there a genomically imprinted social brain?, BioEssays 33: 662-668.

    Curley JP, 2011, The mu-opioid receptor and the evolution of mother-infant attachment: theoretical comment on Higham et al. 2011, Behav Neurosci 125: 273-278.

    Curley JP, Jensen CL, Mashoodh R & Champagne FA, 2011, Social influences on neurobiology and behavior: Epigenetic effects during development,Psychoneuroendocrinology 36: 352-371.

    Curley JP, Mashoodh R & Champagne FA, 2011, Epigenetics and the origin of paternal effects, Hormones & Behavior 59: 306-314.

    Curley JP & Mashoodh R, 2010, Parent-of-origin and trans-generational germline influences on behavioral development: the interacting roles of mothers, fathers, and grandparents, Dev Psychobiol 52: 312-330.

    Curley JP, Rock V, Moynihan AM, Bateson P, Keverne EB & Champagne FA, 2010, Developmental shifts in the behavioral phenotypes of inbred mice: The role of postnatal and juvenile social experiences, Behavior Genetics 40: 220-232.

    Alter MD, Gilani AI, Champagne FA, Curley JP, Turner JB. & Hen R, 2009, Paternal transmission of complex phenotypes in inbred mice. Biological Psychiatry 66: 1061-6.
    Curley JP, Jordan E, Swaney WT, Izraelit A, Kammel S & Champagne FA, 2009, The meaning of weaning: Influence of the weaning period on behavioral development in mice, Developmental Neuroscience 31: 318-331.

    Curley JP, Davidson S, Bateson P, & Champagne FA, 2009, Social enrichment during postnatal development induces transgenerational effects on emotional and reproductive behavior in mice, Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience 3(25): 1-14.

    Champagne FA & Curley JP, 2009, Epigenetic mechanisms mediating the long-term effects of maternal care on development, Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews 33: 593-600.

    Champagne FA, Curley JP, Swaney WT, Hasen N & Keverne EB, 2009, Paternal influence on female behavior: The role of Peg3 in exploration, olfaction and neuroendocrine regulation of maternal behavior of female mice, Behav Neuro 123: 469-480.