Dr. Howard L. Fields MD, PhD

Founder, UCSF Pain Management Center

Howard L. Fields, MD, PhD, is Professor Emeritus of Neurology and Physiology and Former Director of the Wheeler Center for the Neurobiology of Addiction at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF).

Dr. Fields founded the UCSF Pain Management Center and made major contributions to the understanding and treatment of neuropathic pain, and the understanding of mechanisms of pain modulation and placebo analgesia.

He received his MD and PhD in Neuroscience at Stanford in 1965-66. After Internal Medicine training at Bellevue Hospital in New York, he spent three years as a research neurologist at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research. Following clinical training in neurology at the Boston City Hospital Service of Harvard Medical School in 1972, he joined the faculty of the University of California San Francisco.

Dr. Fields’ major interests are in nervous system mechanisms of pain and substance abuse with a focus on how endogenous opioids contribute to these mechanisms. His group was the first to demonstrate the clinical effectiveness of opioids for neuropathic pain and of topical lidocaine for post-herpetic neuralgia. In laboratory studies he discovered and elucidated a pain modulating neural circuit that is required for opioids to produce analgesia. He also discovered that placebo analgesia is blocked by an opioid antagonist.

His recent work has centered on the problem of addiction, and he has begun to delineate the molecular and cellular circuitry of drug reward. His laboratory discovered nerve cells in the striatum that selectively encode the magnitude of a reward. They have also shown how the neurotransmitter dopamine contributes to motivation and reward based choice. His latest work focused on the neurobiology of opioid reward.