R. Douglas Fields

Neurologist, Author

R. Douglas Fields is a developmental neurobiologist and author of The Other Brain, a popular book about the discovery of brain cells (called glia) that communicate without using electricity. He is an authority on neuron-glia interactions, brain development, and the cellular mechanisms of memory. Fields serves on the editorial board of several neuroscience journals and also enjoys writing about science for the general public in Scientific American, Huffington Post, Psychology Today, Outside, Odyssey,, and others. He received advanced degrees from UC Berkeley, San Jose State University, and the University of California, San Diego. He held postdoctoral fellowships at Stanford, Yale, and the National Institutes of Health. He is currently chief of the section on nervous system development and plasticity at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development at the NIH. In addition to science, Fields enjoys building guitars, rock-climbing, and scuba diving.


Blog Posts

  • Genius Across Cultures and the “Google Brain”

    I recently had the opportunity to sit down with other scientists—along with famed director Julie Taymor and legendary composer Philip Glass—to wrestle with the riddle of genius. I found that Taymor made about cultural and environmental influences on cognitive traits very perceptive. We have always understood that whether you are Muslim or Mormon largely depends on where you were born and raised, but neuroscience is showing us that this environmental influence on the mind goes beyond teaching—the physical structure of the brain is molded by the environment in which it is raised. Read »
  • The Other Brain of Genius

    glia Cerebral glial cells span the brain. Are they the key to understanding genius ability? Genius—is it the seed or the soil? Beethoven and Einstein are examples of extraordinarily creative geniuses. Was their vastly superior brain the chance outcome of a genetic dice roll, or was their genius forged by their experience? What if Beethoven had never touched a keyboard? Or what if he first encountered those intriguing keys not as a child, but as a middle-aged man? Einstein exhibited eccentricities that to some observers appear to border on dysfunction. Does extreme creativity straddle the lines of madness? What, exactly, about the brain of a genius gives them such monumental intellect and creativity? Read »