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R. Douglas Fields, Ph.D., Senior Investigator

Dr. Fields long-standing interest is in nervous system plasticity. He received his B.A. from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1975. He received an M.A. degree in 1979 at San Jose State University, and a Ph.D. degree from the University of California, San Diego, working jointly in the Medical School and Scripps Institution of Oceanography. He conducted postdoctoral research at Stanford University, Yale University, and the NIH. He became Head of the Neurocytology and Physiology Unit, NICHD in 1994, and Chief of the Nervous System Development and Plasticity Section, NICHD in 2001. He is Editor-in-Chief of the journal Neuron Glia Biology, and member of the editorial board of several other journals in the field of neuroscience. His laboratory is exploring the molecular mechanism that regulate the structure and function of the nervous system in response to neural impulse activity during development and in relation to learning and memory, and the interactions between neurons and glia.
Photo of R. Douglas Fields, Ph.D., Senior Investigator


Research Interests:
Research in the Section on Nervous System Development and Plasticity is concerned with understanding how the brain develops and modifies its structure and function through experience. Functional activity in the brain during late stages of fetal development in early postnatal life is essential for normal development of the nervous and the same mechanisms underlie learning and memory and nervous system recovery following disease or injury. Our research is investigating the molecular mechanisms that enable neural impulse activity to regulate major developmental processes of both neurons and glia. The main objectives of this research program are: (1) to understand how the expression of genes controlling the structure and function of the nervous system is regulated by patterned neural impulse activity; (2) to determine the functional consequences of neural impulse activity on major developmental processes, including: cell proliferation, survival, differentiation, growth cone motility, neurite outgrowth, synaptogenesis and synapse remodeling, myelination, interactions between neurons and glia, and the mechanisms involved in learning and memory; (3) to understand how information contained in the temporal pattern of neural impulse activity is transduced and integrated within the intracellular signaling networks of neurons to activate specific genes and control appropriate adaptive responses.

This work involves a multidisciplinary approach using cultured mammalian neurons and glia, brain slice, and in vivo preparations. Confocal and two-photon calcium imaging, electrophysiology, microarrays for gene expression profiling, in cultured neurons and hippocampal brain slice are used to study cell proliferation, differentiation, myelination, neuron-glia communication, long-term synaptic plasticity (hippocampal LTP), and intracellular signaling controlling neuronal plasticity and gene expression.

For more information, visit our lab website:

Selected Recent Publications:
  • Fields RD (2011) Signaling by neuronal swelling, Sci Signal Jan 11;4, (155):tr1. Full Text/Abstract

  • Cohen JE, Lee PR, Chen S, Li W, Fields RD. (2011) MicroRNA regulation of homeostatic synaptic plasticity, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 108(28), 11650-5. Full Text/Abstract

  • Wake H, Lee PR, Fields RD. (2011) Control of local protein synthesis and initial events in myelination by action potentials, Science 333(6049), 1647-51. Full Text/Abstract

  • Fumagalli M, Daniele S, Lecca D, Lee PR, Parravicini C, Fields RD, Rosa P, Antonucci F, Verderio C, Trincavelli ML, Bramanti P, Martini C, Abbracchio MP (2011) Phenotypic changes, signaling pathway, and functional correlates of GPR17-expressing neural precursor cells during oligodendrocyte differentiation, J Biol Chem Mar 25;286(12), 10593-604. Full Text/Abstract

  • Fields RD (2010) Visualizing calcium signaling in astrocytes, Sci Signal Nov 9;3, 147. Full Text/Abstract

  • Fields RD. (2010) Change in the Brain's White Matter, Science 5;330(6005), 768-9. Full Text/Abstract

  • Fields RD (2010) Central role of glia in disease research, Neuron Glia Biol May;6(2), 91-2. Full Text/Abstract

All Selected Publications

Contact Information:

Dr. R. Douglas Fields
Chief, Nervous System Development & Plasticity Section, NICHD
Porter Neuroscience Research Center
Building 35, Room 2A-211
35 Convent Drive, MSC 3713
Bethesda, MD 20892-3713

Telephone: (301) 480-3209 (office), (301) 402-4795 (laboratory), (301) 496-9630 (fax)


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