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Qiufu Ma, PhD


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Qiufu Ma, PhD


  • Professor of Neurobiology, Harvard Medical School

Contact Information

  • Office Phone Number(617) 632-4594
  • Fax(617) 632-4595


Dr. Qiufu Ma received his BS from Fudan University in 1987 and PhD from UCLA in 1994. After postdoctoral training with Dr. David Anderson at Caltech, he became an Assistant Professor at Harvard Neurobiology Department and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and become a full Professor in 2011. He was a Pew Scholar from 2000-2004. Since 2007, he has been serving as the Faculty Director of the Office for Postdoctoral Training and Career Development.

Recent Awards:

  • Pew Scholar 2000
  • SCBA Young Investigator Award 2001


Our lab focuses on two lines of research: mapping pain pathways and exploring how acupuncture works. During the past decade, we have been using genetic tools, electrophysiological recordings, and novel behavioral assays to characterize spinal pathways that transmit clinically relevant pain. One key achievement is the identification of spinal neurons that transmit pain evoked by dynamic skin touch, one of most bothersome  forms of pain suffered by patients with nerve injury. More recently, we revealed spinal pathways that drive sustained affective pain caused by severe body injury (e.g., skin burn injury). Importantly, loss of these clinically relevant forms of pain is not detected by reflex-based assays commonly used by the pain field for decades—partly explaining poor translation from preclinical studies to new pain medicines. Currently, the lab is characterizing neural pathways transmitting pain from muscles, bones and visceral organs. Though prevalent and difficult to treat, this type of deep tissue pain is still understudied.
Another insight from past decades’ studies is the realization that there are many redundant neural pathways and mechanisms that can drive pain, making it difficult to develop effective drugs by targeting specific pathways or molecules. A core wisdom of traditional Chinese medicine practices, such as acupuncture, deals with the root of diseases (e.g., inflammation) that drive symptoms like pain. Since 2017, my lab has been studying how stimulation of somatosensory neurons by electroacupuncture drives autonomic nervous reflexes that can in turn modulate local or systemic inflammation; these new studies will explore the modern neuroanatomical basis behind acupuncture practice and help develop new systems biology approaches to treat diseases and chronic pain.

Research Departments:


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