Fields in lab 09R. Douglas Fields is the Chief of the Section on Nervous System Development and Plasticity at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, a part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Adjunct Professor in the Neuroscience and Cognitive Science Program at the University of Maryland, College Park.  In 2004 Dr. Fields founded the scientific journal Neuron Glia Biology, where he is the Editor-in-Chief, and he is a scientific advisor to Scientific American Mind and Odyssey magazines. He is an internationally recognized authority on neuron-glia interactions, brain development, and the cellular mechanisms of memory.  Dr. Fields received advanced degrees at UC Berkeley, San Jose State University, UC San Diego, and he held postdoctoral fellowships at Stanford University, Yale University, and the National Institutes of Health before starting his research laboratory at the NIH in 1994.  The author of over 150 articles in scientific journals and books, he also enjoys building guitars, rock-climbing, and scuba diving.



  1. Hello, Dr Fields. I was wondering if you’ve heard of the recent studies (by Thomas Seyfried at BC and others) on the effectiveness of a restricted ketogenic diet on brain cancers and what you thought of it.

  2. Enjoyed recent article on glia cells in SciAm Mind.
    Might be useful to check out the work of James Oschman (Wood Hole). Oschman has detected electronic activity which is many times faster than neuronal activity throughout the connective tissue system. He likens it to semi-conductor behavior as the liquid field transmits signals.
    Fascinating the neurotransmitter discoveries in glia cells. However, it is possible the entire connective tissue system, including glia cells, “packing material” throughout the body is electronically connected. Oschman posits these channels to be the pathway through which chi (energy movement in the ancient/modern Oriental medical system) flows.
    That the connective tissue system predates brain/neuronal activity and forms the basis for “primitive” communication/intelligence and which remains a significant player in human responsiveness to the environment is worth noting.

  3. As a musician who works with Alzheimers patients, I found your book as a reference and was particularly interested in your observation that the brains of musicians differ significantly from those of non-musicians. Has there been more research done on this? I also teach piano and voice and wonder if vocal exercises are inculede. Thanks, Amy

    • Yes, there is growing literature on this field. I was on a panel last week end at the World Science Festival in NY City that included discussions about this with the composer Philip Glass. The organizers may make it available on the internet. Also I have a recent review article in The Neuroscientist on structural changes in the brain during learning: ” Imaging learning: the search for a memory trace”.Fields RD.Neuroscientist. 2011 Apr;17(2):185-96. Epub 2011 Mar 14, which you should be able to get through your library. I don’t know of any studies about vocal exercises, but it should apply to that as well.

  4. Hello Dr Fields,

    As an academically-trained scientist (in Physics) with a great interest in the neurology of the brain, I have always thought the neuronal model of the brain to be highly deficient. Your relatively recent book, The Other Brain, is a brilliantly written and extraordinarily insightful look into the current research and roles of glial cells, their interaction with neurons and their probable role in degenerative neurological diseases. Your book should be a MUST-READ for anyone with an interest in this subject. My hat is off to you!

    Tom McHale
    Palm Beach Gardens, FL

  5. Superbly expressed, Mr. McHale! Recently visited Science centers in Orlando and Tampa with extensive exhibits on the human body. It would be wonderful to have them update some of their information on the brain as it is quite out of date. I was trying to explain it to my uncle, but will have to show him the book.

  6. Dr. Fields,

    Your book, ‘The Other Brain’ was next to a speed reading book at my local library, and I decided to pick it up because it looked interesting (the subtitle is a bit mysterious, if I do say so myself). As a recent graduate in Zoology and Neuroscience, I can say this is one of the most thought provoking books I’ve ever read. Before, while taking the classes and having a slight idea of how certain points in the brain work was daunting and tough to follow and place examples to. Now, I feel that I am extricated from the bogging task of fully understanding the brain. The point from migraines to labotomies to all teh diseases were all fascinating. The book was so broadly encompassing that I enjoyed emailing old professors regarding prions related to glial cells. I’m about three-quarters of the way through and will probably finish the book sometime in the next few hours. thanks for the great info!

  7. Dr. Fields,
    I just wanted to give a huge thanks to someone who finally wrote a book about glia. I earned my BS in neuroscience at the University of Pittsburgh and while we did spend some time discussing glial cells, the larger portion was dedicated to the famous neurons. I really wish this engaging book becomes required reading for the students in that major. Thank you for your hard work and putting it out there for us to read. It was a true joy.

  8. Dr Fields,

    Finished your enlightening book, ‘The other Brain’. Soon after I met someone who performs CranioSacral Therapy. They explained the concept and process to me. Is there a connection in this concept to ‘the other brain’? Are these fluids and the theraputic work related to the fluid in the Glia cells. I told the therapist about your book. She was very interested in reading it.

    Thank you, Jean

  9. As an acupuncturist and RN/counselor I started to understand subtle energy that the body is so influenced by…have you gotten any info on the five brain waves and how the five elements of acupuncture may be correlated as similars?… This understanding could fuel research and open the door wider for helping upper/lower motor diseases..mental health…j

    I also think the nerve plexus in the body are the chakras which formed around vedic medicine… both chinese and indian energetics are so powerful on the body and mind/spiritual development..perhaps these traditions may be early neruo-science! Any feedback is welcome, Diane

    • There is a pshysiological and psychological basis for acupuncture. (I’ve posted about this elsewhere.) The meridians do not correspond to any anatomical structure, however. Recent work relates to ATP release as one of the physiological mechanisms.

      • Thank you for the time. I understand the ATP responses and reflexes in the body…What I found so similar is that Elements when grouped into constitutional types can also describe brain wave frequency levels that is evidenced by the sound of the voice… individuals do have preferred elements that form their personality-physical structures…muscle ATP and reflective responses appear on the superficial ANS level. Five Element Acupuncturists treat on their client’s constitutional element to reach root level imbalance that relieve pain symptoms.

        This may be outside the scope of our understanding, however, acupuncture does reach organ levels in which the brain is included…The brain is made up of electromagnetic energy and this is what we needle into and create a response…however, this is a very expanded approach to the traditional TCM way acupuncture is taught.. The brain and nervous system was not discussed in Chinese Medicine despite all their neurological descriptors…Could neuroplasticity be a function of energy shifting of 5-brain waves/5-Elements that acupuncturists have manipulated over thousands of years to improve and change what is considered under the current mode of thinking as fixed? Many blessings

  10. I have probably listened to your interview with Ginger Campbell more than 50 times and savored “The Other Brain” many times as well. Fascinating, astounding, relevant and so as yet unrecognized as the valuable contribution to science your work and whole emerging field is. Thank you.

    • Thank you for your kind words! I’m sorry these comments don’t get posted until I approve them and my day job does not leave much time for that! Thanks again. It is wonderful to realize that scientific history is not only something in the past–it is happening right now.

  11. Dear Dr. Fields,
    This article above, and discussion which follows very much makes me want to read the book–and I will, forthwith. As a practicing neurotherapist, who uses neurofeedback to treat clients with everything from TBI, to anoxia, stroke, even PTSD, I am always open to new explanatory models for why it works as well as it does. You could check out either of my books: The Neurofeedback Solution (2012) or The Healing Power of Neurofeedback (2007) or if you write me I would be happy to send you one, or in trade! Just send me your snailmail.
    (I am also a rock-climber, pianist and qi Gong practitioner).
    Stephen Larsen, PhD.

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