Huberman Lab - The Science of Vision, Eye Health & Seeing Better

Welcome to the Huberman Lab Podcast,

where we discuss science

and science-based tools for everyday life.

I’m Andrew Huberman,

and I’m a professor of neurobiology and ophthalmology

at Stanford School of Medicine.

This podcast is separate

from my teaching and research roles at Stanford.

It is, however, part of my desire and effort

to bring zero cost to consumer information

about science and science-related tools

to the general public.

In keeping with that theme,

I’d like to thank the sponsors of today’s podcast.

Our first sponsor is Athletic Greens.

Athletic Greens is an all-in-one

vitamin mineral probiotic drink.

I’ve been taking Athletic Greens since 2012,

so I’m delighted that they’re sponsoring the podcast.

The reason I started taking Athletic Greens

and the reason I still take Athletic Greens

once or twice a day

is that it helps me cover

all of my basic nutritional needs.

It makes up for any deficiencies that I might have.

In addition, it has probiotics,

which are vital for microbiome health.

I’ve done a couple of episodes now

on the so-called gut microbiome

and the ways in which the microbiome interacts

with your immune system, with your brain to regulate mood,

and essentially with every biological system

relevant to health throughout your brain and body.

With Athletic Greens, I get the vitamins I need,

the minerals I need,

and the probiotics to support my microbiome.

If you’d like to try Athletic Greens,

you can go to slash Huberman

and claim a special offer.

They’ll give you five free travel packs

plus a year supply of vitamin D3 K2.

There are a ton of data now showing that vitamin D3

is essential for various aspects

of our brain and body health.

Even if we’re getting a lot of sunshine,

many of us are still deficient in vitamin D3.

And K2 is also important

because it regulates things like cardiovascular function,

calcium in the body, and so on.

Again, go to slash Huberman

to claim the special offer of the five free travel packs

and the year supply of vitamin D3 K2.

Today’s episode is also brought to us by Element.

Element is an electrolyte drink

that has everything you need and nothing you don’t.

That means the exact ratios of electrolytes are an element,

and those are sodium, magnesium, and potassium,

but it has no sugar.

I’ve talked many times before on this podcast

about the key role of hydration and electrolytes

for nerve cell function, neuron function,

as well as the function of all the cells

and all the tissues and organ systems of the body.

If we have sodium, magnesium, and potassium

present in the proper ratios,

all of those cells function properly,

and all our bodily systems can be optimized.

If the electrolytes are not present,

and if hydration is low,

we simply can’t think as well as we would otherwise,

our mood is off, hormone systems go off,

our ability to get into physical action,

to engage in endurance and strength,

and all sorts of other things is diminished.

So with Element, you can make sure

that you’re staying on top of your hydration

and that you’re getting the proper ratios of electrolytes.

If you’d like to try Element, you can go to drinkelement,

that’s slash Huberman,

and you’ll get a free Element sample pack

with your purchase.

They’re all delicious.

So again, if you want to try Element,

you can go to slash Huberman.

Today’s episode is also brought to us by Thesis.

Thesis makes what are called nootropics,

which means smart drugs.

Now, to be honest, I am not a fan of the term nootropics.

I don’t believe in smart drugs in the sense that

I don’t believe that there’s any one substance

or collection of substances that can make us smarter.

I do believe based on science, however,

that there are particular neural circuits

and brain functions that allow us to be more focused,

more alert, access creativity, be more motivated, et cetera.

That’s just the way that the brain works,

different neural circuits for different brain states.

Thesis understands this.

And as far as I know, they’re the first nootropics company

to create targeted nootropics for specific outcomes.

I’ve been using Thesis for more than six months now,

and I can confidently say that their nootropics

have been a total game changer.

My go-to formula is the clarity formula,

or sometimes I’ll use their energy formula before training.

To get your own personalized nootropic starter kit,

go online to slash Huberman,

take a three-minute quiz,

and Thesis will send you four different formulas

to try in your first month.

That’s slash Huberman,

and use the code Huberman at checkout

for 10% off your first order.

I’m pleased to announce that the Huberman Lab Podcast

is now partnered with Momentus Supplements.

We partnered with Momentus for several important reasons.

First of all, they ship internationally

because we know that many of you are located

outside of the United States.

Second of all, and perhaps most important,

the quality of their supplements is second to none,

both in terms of purity and precision

of the amounts of the ingredients.

Third, we’ve really emphasized supplements

that are single ingredient supplements,

and that are supplied in dosages

that allow you to build a supplementation protocol

that’s optimized for cost,

that’s optimized for effectiveness,

and that you can add things and remove things

from your protocol in a way

that’s really systematic and scientific.

If you’d like to see the supplements

that we partner with Momentus on,

you can go to slash Huberman.

There you’ll see those supplements,

and just keep in mind that we are constantly expanding

the library of supplements available through Momentus

on a regular basis.

Again, that’s slash Huberman.

We are now beginning a new topic

for the next four to five episodes

of the Huberman Lab Podcast.

Before we move into that,

I want to just briefly touch on a couple of questions

that I got from the last episode,

which was related to the science of endurance training.

I described the four kinds of endurance training.

We posted protocols of the specific four kinds

of endurance training at

Just go to that episode.

You can see the download.

It’s a zero-cost PDF.

I got a lot of questions

about what’s called concurrent training,

which is how to program endurance training

if you are also interested

in strength and hypertrophy training,

or how to incorporate strength and hypertrophy training,

which was in the previous episode, with endurance training.

This can all be made very simple.

Ask yourself, what are you trying to emphasize?

And then emphasize that for a 10 to 12-week cycle.

So if you’re mostly interested in endurance,

I would say use a three-to-two ratio.

Maybe get three endurance training workouts per week,

maybe four, and two strength and hypertrophy workouts.

If you’re mainly focusing on strength and hypertrophy,

get three or four workouts for strength and hypertrophy,

and do two endurance workouts.

Start with the minimum number of sets that’s required

to get the result that you want.

So if you’re not accustomed to doing endurance work,

you would start with the minimum number

that’s listed on that protocol.

So if it says three to five sets,

you would start with three, maybe even just two,

and then work your way up by adding sets each week.

I do suggest that people get

at least one complete rest day per week,

although I know a lot of people don’t like that.

I benefit from that.

I actually benefit from having

two complete rest days each week.

I just continue to make progress that way,

whether or not it’s for strength and hypertrophy

or for endurance.

I am a big believer in rest days.

Other people are not.

And those can be active rest days,

hiking, relaxing, et cetera.

After a 10 to 12-week cycle,

then I also suggest taking anywhere

from five to seven days completely off.

You can still enjoy life and do things.

I know for you addicted exercisers

that you’re going to loathe to do that,

but that’s one way to stay injury-free,

keep your joints and tissues healthy over time,

and continue to make progress.

If you don’t want to do that week off, don’t do it.

None of this is holy.

None of it is a strict prescriptive.

Just ask yourself, what are you going to emphasize

and emphasize that in terms of the total volume

of workouts that you do and work up incrementally

and then move into another cycle?

That’s what I suggest.

So go to

You can get the protocol there.

We are now going to move into a new topic

unrelated to physical performance,

starting with this episode.

And for the next four to five episodes,

we are going to talk all about the senses.

That’s sight, eyesight, hearing, touch, taste, smell.

And we are also going to talk about this critical sense

that we call interoception,

or our sense of our internal real estate.

Now, the reason that we are talking about the senses

is because if you understand how the senses are perceived,

what they’re about,

what the underlying cells and connections are about,

you will be in a terrific position to understand

the month’s topic that follows,

which is all about mental health.

Now, I want to emphasize that if you’re somebody

who doesn’t have any trouble seeing, hearing,

tasting, smelling,

and has an excellent sense of interoception,

I do believe that these episodes

will still be very relevant to you

because they have everything to do with

how you move through the world,

how you make sense of information,

and how you organize your thoughts and your emotions.

I also want to emphasize that we’re going to cover

a lot of practical tools.

So today’s episode is going to be all about vision

and eyesight, a topic that’s very near and dear to my heart

because it’s the one that I’ve been focusing on

for well over 25 years of my career.

But we’re not just going to get into the mechanistic details

about how light is converted into electrical potentials

and things like that.

We are going to talk about practical tools

that you can and should use to help maintain the health

of your visual system and your eyesight.

Very often, young people will say, what should I do?

You know, you’re always talking about, you know,

neuroplasticity and how it tapers off over time,

but I’m a young person, what should I do?

You should absolutely train and support your eyesight.

In fact, if you’re a young person and you see perfectly

or you feel as if you see the world perfectly,

you are in the best position to bolster,

to reinforce that visual system

so that you don’t lose your vision as you age.

In addition, you can leverage your visual system

for better mental and physical performance,

and we’re going to talk about that.

If you’re somebody who suffers from a clinical disorder

of vision, you have trouble seeing,

or if you need corrective lenses in order to see,

this episode is definitely for you.

And while, of course, I can’t make clinical diagnoses,

I can’t have a one-on-one conversation

with any of you in this format, nor am I a clinician,

I’m a scientist, not a physician,

I did consult with our chair of ophthalmology,

Dr. Jeffrey Goldberg

at Stanford University School of Medicine,

as well as several other people

to really vet the information

and make sure that the protocols that I’m describing

are consistent with the clinical literature.

If you have a severe eye problem,

you should be working with a really good ophthalmologist

and or optometrist,

but certainly an ophthalmologist who’s a medical doctor.

But I do believe that the information

that we’re going to discuss today

is going to be relevant to everybody,

and we’ll set the stage for the month on mental health

and mental performance.

So let’s get started.

When we hear the word vision,

we most often think about eyesight,

or our ability to perceive shapes and objects

and faces and colors.

And indeed, vision involves eyesight,

our ability to see shapes and objects

and faces and colors and so forth.

However, our eyes are responsible for much more than that,

including our mood, our level of alertness,

and all of that is included in what we call vision.

So I just want to take about three, maybe four minutes

and talk about how the visual system works,

how it’s built, and how you are able

to so-called see things around you.

I also want to describe the ways in which your eyes

and your visual system impact your mood

and your level of alertness.

And then we are going to get right into some protocols,

some specific things that each and all of you should do

if you want to enhance your vision

and maintain your vision as you get older.

And again, if you’re a 15-year-old or a 12-year-old,

this episode is especially for you

because your nervous system is far more plastic

than mine is.

It’s much more amenable to change.

So you can really build a very strong visual system.

And in doing that, and if you adopt specific behaviors

at any age of light viewing at particular times

in particular ways, then you can build an emotional system

that’s also reinforced by your visual system.

So let’s talk about vision.

What is vision?

Well, vision starts with the eyes.

We have no what’s called extraocular light perception.

While it feels good to have light on our skin,

while it feels good to be outside in the sunlight

for most people, the only way that light information

can get to the cells of your body

is through these two little goodies

on the front of your face.

And for those of you listening, I’m just pointing to my eyes.

As many of you have heard me say before

on this and other podcasts,

your eyes in particular, your neural retinas

are part of your central nervous system.

They are part of your brain.

They’re the only part of your brain

that sits outside the cranial vault.

In other words, you have two pieces of your brain

that deliberately got squeezed out of the skull

during development and placed in these things

we call eye sockets.

There’s a genetic program for the specific purpose

of making sure that three little layers of neurons,

nerve cells got squeezed out

and form what are called your neural retinas.

Now the eyes have a lot of other goodies in them

that are very important.

And those are the goodies that we’re going to focus on

a lot today.

There’s a lens to focus light precisely to the retina.

If you’re somebody who requires eyeglasses or contacts,

chances are you don’t do that correctly.

And so that’s why you use other lenses

like eyeglasses or contacts.

There are also other pieces of the eye

that are designed to keep the eye lubricated.

You also have these things that we call eyelashes.

Most people don’t know this,

but eyelashes are there to trigger the blink reflex

if a piece of dust or something gets in front of your eye.

It’s a beautiful adaptation of nature.

They aren’t just aesthetically nice.

Costello happens to have very long eyelashes.

He gets compliments about this all the time.

Maybe you have long eyelashes.

I don’t have particularly long eyelashes,

but the eyelashes are there

so that if a piece of dust or something

starts to head towards the cornea,

the eye blinks very, very fast.

It’s the fastest reflex you own is your eye blink reflex.

We also have these things called eyelids.

Now eyelids might seem like the most boring topic of all,

but they are incredibly fascinating.

Today, we’re going to talk about

how you can actually use your visual system

to increase your levels of alertness

based on the neural circuits

that link your brainstem with your eyelids.

And no, we are not going to have a blinking contest

because I would win and you would lose,

and that wouldn’t be fun for you.

So let’s talk about what the eyes do for vision.

Basically, the entire job of the eyes

is to collect light information

and send it off to the rest of the brain

in a form that the brain can understand.

Remember, no light actually gets in

past those neural retinas.

It gets to the neural retina,

and we have specific cells in the eye called photoreceptors.

They come in two different types, rods and cones.

Cones are mainly responsible for daytime vision,

and the rods are mainly responsible for vision at night

or under low light conditions, generally speaking.

So basically what happens is if your eyelids are open,

light comes into the eye.

The lens focuses that light.

Light is also just called photons,

light energy, onto the retina.

These photoreceptors, the rods and cones,

have chemical reactions inside them

that involve things like vitamin A,

and that chemical reaction converts the light

into electricity.

Now, that might seem incredibly abstract,

but the way to think about this is very similar to,

for instance, you have touch receptors on your skin,

and when you press on those touch receptors,

they convert pressure, physical pressure,

into electrical information,

and those neurons send it up to your spinal cord and brain.

You can register that somebody or you are touching

the top of your hand as I’m doing now.

With the eyes and the retina,

it’s just that light gets converted

into electrical information.

Within the eye, within the retina,

there are then a series of stages of processing,

and that information eventually gets sent into the brain

by a very specific class of neurons.

I would like you to know the names of these neurons.

They’re called retinal ganglion cells.

So the only thing you need to know

about the neuroscience of the eye at this point

are that there are rods and cones.

The cones are involved in bright daytime vision,

and rods are involved in more dusk or nighttime vision,

and you’ve got these cells called retinal ganglion cells

that send the information off to the rest of the brain.

Now, here’s what’s incredible.

I just want you to ponder this for a second.

This still blows my mind.

Everything you see around you,

you’re not actually seeing those objects directly.

What you’re doing is you’re making a best guess

about what’s there based on the pattern of electricity

that arrives in your brain.

Now, that might just seem totally wild

and hard to wrap your head around,

but think about it this way,

because this is the way it actually works.

Let’s take an example of a color, like green or blue.

You have cones in your eye that respond best

to the wavelength of light

that is reflected off, say, a green apple.

So you don’t actually see the green apple.

What you see is the light bouncing off that green apple,

and it goes into your eye,

and you see it and perceive it as round and green,

but not because you see anything green.

No green light arrives in your brain.

What happens is your brain actually compares

the amount of green reflection coming off that apple

to the amount of red and blue around it.

Well, you might say, well,

the green apple is sitting on a brown table

or a white surface.

Well, then it will appear very green

because the amount of wavelength of light for green

is very high, and the amount for red is very low,

and so it looks very green, okay?

So we don’t actually see anything directly.

What the brain is receiving is a series of signals,

electrical signals, and it’s comparing electrical signals

in order to come up with what we call these perceptions,

like I see something green, a green apple, or I see red.

Let me give you a slightly different example.

If you were to play a key on the piano,

let’s say you play, I’m not a musician,

so hopefully I won’t get this too incorrectly,

but let’s say you have like E sharp,

and maybe it’s on ding, ding, ding, ding, ding.

If the brain gets that signal, it doesn’t actually know E.

That’s what, it doesn’t recognize it

until you were to play another key next to it,

dun, dun, dun, dun, dun,

and what it does is it does the math,

it does the subtraction, and it compares those two.

So when we see something green, or we see something red,

or we see something blue,

we’re not actually seeing it directly.

The brain is making a guess

about how green, or red, or blue that thing is

by comparing what’s around it, okay?

And if that seems hard to wrap your head around, don’t worry

because we will explain it in more depth going forward,

but I really want people to understand this,

that vision, eyesight, is not looking at things directly

and that information getting directly into your brain.

It is translated.

Light information is transformed into electrical signals

that your visual system exquisitely understands.

Now, what does this mean?

Why should you care about this?

Well, if you have a dog like I do, or a cat,

they are not colorblind,

but they lack the cones that respond to red,

meaning long wavelength light.

So what does that mean?

That means that when they see green,

it’s different than the green you see,

not because that apple isn’t visible to them,

but because they aren’t able to compare it to red,

and you are.

As a consequence, when they look at a green lawn,

it looks more brownish or orange to them.

When you wear a red shirt in front of your dog or cat,

if you see a stop sign and they see a stop sign,

they see orangish brown and you see red,

presuming that you are a trichromat,

meaning you have three color vision.

So this is all to say that every animal

sees the world differently,

depending on whether or not they have one or two

or three of these different cones,

the red, blue, or green cones.

If you are a mantis shrimp of all things,

you see hundreds of colors that human beings can’t see.

Many animals see into visual ranges

that you and I can’t see in.

So for instance, a pit viper senses heat emissions.

It literally sees the heat coming off of you

or of an animal that they want to eat.

If you are a ground squirrel, you can see ultraviolet light.

This is going to sound kind of weird,

but ground squirrels actually signal one another

by standing up outside and shining sunlight

off each other’s stomachs to each other,

signaling at a distance, just like, you know,

you could signal somebody with a mirror

and sunlight at distance.

There are species of primates,

this isn’t very pleasant to think about,

that urinate on their hands

and then wipe it all over their stomach

and then use that sunlight

to reflect different signals to each other.

I don’t know what they’re saying.

We always assume it’s something cute and nice,

but maybe they’re insulting each other.

So this actually gets right down to the heart

of these bigger questions like consciousness.

What do we see?

What’s out there?

How much of life is really accessible to us?

And I could go on and on.

You know, this used to be kind of an obsession of mine

when I was coming up in the field of visual neuroscience

to understand how different animals

see the world compared to us.

I’ll give one more example, a diving bird,

you know, a bird that flies over the ocean.

It has an incredible task.

It has to both view the horizon

and it has to view schools of fish.

And then it has to make a trajectory down into the water

and grab one of those fish to eat.

And the water has what’s called a refractory index.

It actually shifts like a prism,

the impression or the perception

of where that fish is, right?

If the bird sees the fish right below it,

it has to know, it has to adjust its diving trajectory

just right because it knows that that fish

actually isn’t where it sees it.

It’s probably a few inches ahead or to the side of that

because of the way that water diverts the image.

If you’ve ever dropped a coin to the bottom of a pool,

if you go straight down looking at that location,

if you were to look from the top of the pool

and you dive straight down with your eyes closed,

you will miss because the water refracts,

it shifts the visual image.

Well, diving birds have an arrangement

of these retinal cells that communicate to the brain.

That’s both a streak to view the horizon

because they need to know where they are

relative to the horizon.

And they have a pupil like we do on the bottom of their eye

so that they can make very accurate dive

and attacks on these schools of fish

and catch fish and eat those fish.

We just have pupils in the middle of our eyes.

So there’s a ton about the optics of the eye

and the way that it communicates with the brain

that allows us to see.

We could spend hours talking about this,

but what I’d like to embed in your mind

is that what you experience in the outside world

is bottlenecked.

It’s limited by which wavelengths, which colors,

if you will, of light that you can see,

that your brain is coming up with a best guess

about what’s there.

It doesn’t actually know what’s there

and that your vision is distinctly different

from say the vision of a dog

or from the vision of somebody who’s a dichromat,

meaning they don’t have a red cone.

A lot of people in particular, about one in 80 males

lacks a red cone and therefore sees the world

much the same way that Costello does,

although he sees it from just much lower toward the ground.

So that’s what I’d like you to understand

about the way the eye communicates with the brain.

I would also like you to understand

that the brain itself is making these guesses

and that those guesses are largely right.

How do I know that?

Well, they’re right because when you reach out

to grab a glass, most of the time you grab the glass

and you don’t miss, right?

Most of the time when you make judgments

about the world around you

based on your visual impression of them,

it allows you to move functionally through the world.

But let me give you some examples

of where this guessing is happening right now.

And it’s so incredible that to this day,

this still blows my mind.

Cover one eye with one hand.

If you’re driving, maybe don’t do this.

If you’re viewing the world around you,

presumably you can see everything that’s out there.

I could do this with one eye or the other eye.

You probably see better out of one or the other

and we’ll talk about that.

You have a giant blind spot

in the middle of your visual field.

It’s called your blind spot.

It is the spot in which the connections,

the wires from all those retinal ganglion cells

exit the back of the eye and head off toward the brain.

In other words, you are blind for a huge spot

of your central vision, the part of your vision

that’s highest acuity, highest detail.

And yet you don’t see that ever.

You cover one eye and you see perfectly fine.

And it’s not just because your eye

is moving around really quickly.

Your brain is guessing what’s in that spot,

which is absolutely incredible.

And so you don’t see that blind spot.

This is happening all the time.

Now, when you have two eyes open,

the way that your eyes are positioned in your head

and the way they view the world is such

that they fill in each other’s blind spot.

So it’s pretty convenient.

But if you cover one eye, that’s impossible.

And yet you still see the world as complete.

So the brain is doing these incredible things.

It’s also creating depth, a sense of depth,

even though what arrives from the retina

is essentially a readout of a two-dimensional flat image.

So it can sense depth.

How do you know depth?

Well, this is very simple.

Things that are closer to you tend to be larger

than things that are far away.

Things that are closer to you tend to look

like they’re moving faster.

If you’ve ever been in a train and you look to your side,

the rungs on a fence or the train tracks going by you

look like they’re going very fast.

If you look off in the distance,

they look like they’re moving very slowly.

And there are differences between what’s close to you

and what’s further away.

So a little house on the horizon,

you don’t look at it and say,

oh, that must be a tiny little house.

You have some prior knowledge

that things further away are smaller.

So that’s the main way that you do that.

And you compare the location

at which information about light lands on the two eyes.

So your eyes are slightly offset from one another.

So that, for instance, if I look at you,

if you were standing right in front of me right now

and I were to look at you, the image of your face,

the light bouncing off your face, to be more precise,

lands on one eye in a slightly different location

than it does in the other eye.

And then the brain does math.

It basically does the equivalent of geometry

and trigonometry and essentially figures out

how far away you are from me, which is just incredible.

So the brain does all this very, very fast.

And the brain uses about 40 to 50%

of its total real estate for vision.

That’s how important vision is.

Now, for those of you that are blind

or low vision or no vision,

that real estate in the brain will be taken over

by neurons that control a sense of touch

and a sense of hearing.

And indeed, hearing and touch are much better,

higher acuity and faster in blind people.

But for most of you who I presume are sighted,

this is how it works.

So that’s kind of vision from eye to brain in a nutshell.

There are a bunch of different stations in the brain

that do different things.

That’s eyesight.

Now I want to talk about the other aspect of vision,

which is the stuff that you don’t perceive,

the subconscious stuff.

And then we’ll transition directly

into how you can use light and eyesight

to control this other stuff,

because it’s very important.

And that other stuff is mood, sleep, and appetite.

And there are ways in which you can use

the same protocols that I will describe

in order to preserve and even enhance your vision,

your ability to see things and consciously perceive them.

So the protocols we will describe

have a lot of carry over to both conscious eyesight

and to these subconscious aspects of vision.

And I just want you to understand a little bit more

about the science of seeing, of eyesight and vision,

and then all the protocols will make perfect sense.

So as amazing as eyesight is,

it actually did not evolve for us to see shapes

and colors and motion and form.

The most ancient cells in our eyes

and the reason we have eyes

is to communicate information about time of day

to the rest of the brain and body.

Remember, there’s no extraocular photoreception.

There’s no way for light information

to get to all the cells of your body,

but every cell in your body needs to know

if it’s night or day.

I talked a little bit about this in the episodes on sleep.

And this episode is not about sleep,

but I want to emphasize that there is a particular category

of retinal ganglion cell.

Remember the neurons that connect the retina to the brain

that is involved in a special kind of vision

that has nothing to do with conscious perception

of what’s around you.

And it’s happening right now.

It’s happening all the time.

These are so-called melanopsin retinal ganglion cells

named after the opsin that they contain within them.

They are essentially photoreceptors.

Remember before I said there are photoreceptors

and then these ganglion cells?

Well, these melanopsin cells, as the name suggests,

melanopsin have their own photoreceptor built inside them.

The opsin that they contain is actually very similar

to the melanopsin that is present in the skin

of some amphibians and that causes those amphibians

to change their skin color in different light conditions.

So you have, believe it or not,

a little bit of frog skin in your eye, so to speak.

Okay, not exactly, but you essentially have the equivalent

of what frogs have in their skin in your eye.

If you are low vision or no vision,

as long as you have retinas,

it’s very likely you still have these cells

even though you can’t see or you don’t see well.

These cells, retinal ganglion cells,

communicate to areas of the brain

when particular qualities of light

are present in your environment

and signal to the brain, therefore,

that it’s early day or late in the day.

These melanopsin ganglion cells

are sometimes also called intrinsically photosensitive cells

because they behave like photoreceptors.

What do these cells respond to

and why should you care about them?

Well, you should care about them

because they regulate when you’ll get sleepy,

when you’ll feel awake,

how fast your metabolism is, excuse me,

your blood sugar levels, your dopamine levels,

and your pain threshold.

There are other factors that impact those things,

but they are one of the, if not the most powerful determinant

of those other things like mood and pain threshold,

sleepiness, wakefulness, et cetera.

These melanopsin ganglion cells have been shown

by the NITES group, N-E-I-T-E-S,

up at the University of Washington

and by Samer Hattar’s lab and David Bersin’s lab

and a number of other people’s labs,

such in Panda, Iggy Provencio, et cetera,

a number of excellent labs in neuroscience

to set the circadian clock and to respond best

to the contrast between blue and yellow light

of the sort that lands on these cells

when you view the sun,

when it’s at so-called low solar angle,

when it’s low in the sky,

either in the morning or in the evening.

What does all this mean?

It means, and here’s the first protocol,

and you’ve probably heard me say this before,

but it is appropriate to this episode to say it again.

If you are not viewing the sun, sunlight,

even through cloud cover for two to 10 minutes

in the early part of the day

when the sun is still low in the sky

and doing the same thing again in the evening,

you are severely disrupting your sleep rhythms,

your mood, your hormones, your metabolism,

your pain threshold, and many other factors,

including your ability to learn and remember information.

The most central and important aspect of our biology

and perhaps our psychology as well

is to anchor ourselves in time,

to know when we exist, okay?

It sounds a little bit abstract and philosophical,

but it’s not.

And we don’t know time as a real thing

because of watches and clocks.

We know time at a biological level

based on where the sun is and where,

which of course is where we are relative to the sun

because the earth is spinning around.

Now, what does this mean for a protocol?

It means see, get that light in your eyes early in the day

and anytime you want to be awake.

So try and get as much sunlight in your eyes

during the day as you safely can.

We’ll talk about eye safety this episode in depth.

And the blue light and the contrast of that blue yellow,

remember, we don’t see blue.

This is all subconscious.

This is blue reflections coming off of sunlight.

Blue light, we’ve been told is so terrible for us.

It is absolutely essential and wonderful

for waking up the brain,

for triggering all sorts of positive biological reactions,

but it needs to be viewed early in the day.

If you can’t see sunlight

because it’s the thick cloud cover of say in a,

you know, you’re in the UK and it’s winter,

then artificial lights,

especially blue lights would be very beneficial to you.

You need a lot of this light and its contrast with yellow

in order to trigger these melanopsin cells,

which would then trigger your circadian clock,

which sits above the roof of your mouth,

which will signal every cell in your body,

including temperature rhythms, et cetera.

So first things first,

your visual system was not for seeing faces, motion,

et cetera.

The most ancient cells in your eye,

which are there right now as we speak,

are there to inform your body and brain about time of day.

So you want to get that bright light early in the day.

Absolutely essential, two to 10 minutes.

You can download the light meter app

if you want to measure lux.

When I explained how to do that in earlier episodes,

it got a little convoluted.

Get that two to 10 minutes, ideally without sunglasses.

Now, here’s another reason to do this,

and I’ve never spoken about this before on any podcast,

which is that there have been several studies now

in thousands of subjects exploring what can be done

to prevent myopia, nearsightedness, and other visual defects.

And it turns out in a series of large clinical trials,

the conclusion has emerged that getting two hours a day

of outdoor time without sunglasses, blue light,

this blue light that everyone has demonized,

getting that sunlight during the day for two hours,

even if you’re reading other things

and doing other things outside,

has a significant effect on reducing the probability

that you will get myopia, nearsightedness.

Now, whether or not that’s also due to the fact

that myopia can be caused by viewing things

up close too much.

So if you’re indoors,

we tend to be looking at things more closely, right?

Unless you have a very large house

with walls that are very far away from you.

But the effect does seem to be directly related

to getting sunlight and not just to the distance

that you’re viewing.

I’m going to describe this study just briefly,

but this is a second protocol.

So we have one protocol about getting sunlight

to set your circadian clocks, meaning wake you up,

establish your sleep,

will occur about 12 to 16 hours later.

That’s all in the sleep episode,

but also to enhance your mood, to enhance your metabolism,

to optimize your hormone levels,

and to optimize learning and dopamine levels,

this feel good neuromodulator that’s essential

to not getting depressed, et cetera.

But now there’s a second protocol, which is ideally,

and this includes children,

as long as they’re not very small infants,

ideally, we’re all getting two hours of outdoor time,

even if there’s cloud cover.

Remember, we evolved mostly under outdoor conditions,

not indoor conditions.

And no artificial blue light will not replace this aspect

of your visual system and offsetting myopia.

So I just want to briefly describe this study

because it’s a very important one,

and I don’t think it’s discussed often enough.

There are many studies exploring this,

but one of the ones I like the most looked at 693 students,

and a subset of them were encouraged

to spend 11 hours a week outdoors, okay?

So most kids are in school five days a week or so.

So they’re spending 11 hours a week outdoors.

They are sometimes reading outdoors.

They’re not always just playing outdoors.

They might be reading books, et cetera.

They used eight different schools.

And the reason they did this study,

I probably should have mentioned,

is that myopia, nearsightedness, is a global epidemic.

At least that’s how it was referred to in the study.

I don’t know who decides what’s an epidemic or not.

I think there are thresholds for that.

This paper published in the journal,

Ophthalmology in 2018,

described the fact that being outdoors for two hours a day

could significantly reduce the probability

that these children would develop nearsightedness.

And it turns out, based on other studies,

that adults who spend two hours a day outside,

so that would be reading outside, talking outside,

no, it does not include light

coming through the windshield of your car.

I’ll explain why in a few moments.

Offset the formation of myopia.

Now, myopia or nearsightedness has to do

with the way that the lens focuses light onto the retina.

I don’t want to get into a long description of this now,

but basically the lens has to bring light to the retina,

not in front of it, not behind it.

If it brings light to a position in front of the retina,

then you won’t see clearly.

You will need corrective lenses.

If it brings light directly to the retina,

then you will see clearly.

That should be intuitive why that makes sense.

So you might say, why would being outside,

getting this blue light or this blue-yellow contrast

from sunlight actually offset myopia?

Well, it probably, and I want to emphasize probably,

has to do with the fact

that these melanopsin ganglion cells,

these intrinsically photosensitive ganglion cells

are not just responsible for sleep

and talking to your circadian clock and that sort of thing.

They also make connections within the retina.

They connect to things like, this is for the aficionados,

the ciliary body, the iris, the muscles,

and the structures within the eye

that actually move the lens

and allow you to adjust your vision

to things up close or far away.

And in doing so, they increase or improve the health

of the little tiny muscles within the eye

that move the lens.

And they probably, again,

this needs a little bit more work

in order to really tamp down the mechanism.

They’re probably also involved in bringing growth factors

and blood supply to the muscles and to the neurons

that are responsible

for this focusing mechanism within the eye.

So remember, your eye is an optical device.

You were born with lenses.

You don’t have to use glasses, or maybe you do,

because you have lenses in your eyes.

And those lenses need to move.

It’s not a rigid lens like a glass lens.

It’s a dynamic lens.

It has little muscles that pull on it and squeeze it.

And make it thicker or thinner

as you look at things close and far away.

And I’ll describe how that works in a moment.

These melanopsin cells and their activation by sunlight,

completely subconsciously, you’re unaware of this,

promote the health of this system within the eye

and allow you to offset the myopia, nearsightedness.

In other words, getting outside for two hours a day,

each day, on average, even if there’s cloud cover,

without sunglasses on,

will allow you to offset the formation of myopia.

Now, you might still form myopia

if you have certain structural features

or genetic basis for that.

We will talk about things that you can do as well.

But for everybody, we should be doing this.

And that might seem like a lot,

but this is the way that your visual system works.

Staying indoors, just getting artificial light,

and looking at things up close,

leads to visual defects, okay?

It’s a form of kind of like visual obesity, right?

The posture of your visual system, if you will,

is going to be unhealthy if you’re just indoors

and you’re not getting sunlight early in the day

and for at least two hours per day.

I want to talk a little bit more about how our eyes adjust

to things that are close to us or far away.

This is an absolutely brilliant consequence

of our nature and our design.

And whenever I say nature and design,

people always ask me, you know,

what are you really trying to say?

Are you trying to talk about creators?

Are you talking about intelligent design?

Look, I want to be very frank with you.

I wasn’t consulted at the design phase and neither were you.

And so that is all very interesting,

but it’s not the topic of this discussion.

What is clear and what is the topic of this discussion

is that the eye can dynamically adjust where light lands

by moving the lens and changing the shape of the lens

in your eye through a process called accommodation.

And if you understand this process of accommodation,

you not only can enhance the health of your eyes

in the immediate and long-term, but you also can work better.

You’ll be able to focus better on physical and mental work.

You will be able to concentrate for longer.

And I want to emphasize that so much of our mental focus,

whether or not it’s for cognitive endeavors

or physical endeavors,

is grounded in where we place our visual focus.

Okay, what we look at and our ability

to hold our concentration there

is critically determining how we think.

So in other words, if you can hold visual focus,

you can hold mental focus, cognitive focus,

but holding visual focus is challenging.

It’s tiring because it requires movement of the lens.

And that movement of the lens requires activation

of muscles and the activation of muscles,

as you know, from the physical performance episodes,

if you saw them, and even if you don’t,

is dictated by neurons.

So what is accommodation?

Well, it’s actually very simple and very elegant.

And again, this is another case

where whenever I look at this stuff,

even though I’ve been looking at it for years,

learning about it for years,

it still boggles my mind that we have these apparati

built into our eyes.

So we have lenses in our eyes

and we have these things called the irises.

You’re all familiar with the iris

because you’ll see people’s pupils get bigger or smaller.

And we intuitively think of eyes as having the pupils.

If you actually draw two circles on a sheet of paper

and they look like two circles,

but if you put little dots in the middle of them,

they look like eyes.

Your brain recognizes those as eyes

because one of the first things you see

when you come into this world are eyes.

And actually, if you put the little dots close together,

it’ll look kind of wrong, like it’s cross-eyed.

And if you put them at different locations

within those two dots, opposing locations,

it’ll look Google-eyed.

And so your brain is actually filling in all the face

and other information, even emotional information,

just based on this recognition of eyes.

And so there’s clearly, we know this,

there’s real estate deep up, further up in the brain

that’s responsible for analyzing and recognizing faces.

And the eyes and the position of these little things

we call irises and pupils, et cetera,

is really important for how we interpret

the status of others.

And that’s why it’s such a powerful thing

just to put two circles and move the pupils around on paper.

In fact, I want to get into a combination,

but if you think about it,

if one of my pupils was up there

and the other one was down there,

one was really big and one was really small,

that would actually be a sign of pretty severe damage.

If someone gets hit hard on the side of the head,

you’ll notice that they shine a light in one eye.

You know what they’re doing that?

They’re actually looking at the other eye.

When you shine light of the eye,

that pupil constricts to limit the amount of light

that comes in so it doesn’t damage the eye.

This also happens when you walk outside and it’s bright.

It constricts, but we have what’s called

the consensual pupil reflex.

There’s a connection deep in the brainstem,

deep back here in the brain near my neck

that connects the pupil mechanism for the two eyes.

And they’re looking at the other eye.

And if you shine light in one eye

and that pupil constricts, but the other one doesn’t,

there’s a good chance there’s brainstem damage.

This is what they do on the side of a football field

or a boxing match, or if someone,

unfortunately, hits their head.

So two pupils, and don’t freak out

if one pupil is a little bit smaller than the other,

that doesn’t necessarily mean brain damage.

But if you suddenly have one pupil bigger than the other,

you absolutely want to go see a neurologist right away.

So the eyes and the pupils are indicative

of things that are happening deep in the brain.

Now, accommodation is our ability to accommodate

to things that are up close here or further away.

And the way this works is that the iris

and the musculature in a structure

called the ciliary body move the lens.

So when you look far away, okay,

when you see things far away,

your lens actually relaxes, it can flatten out.

So I want you to think about this.

When you look far away, when it may be anywhere

from like 20 feet away from you out to a horizon

that’s miles or kilometers away from you,

the lens can just relax, it can flatten out.

And you’ll notice that it actually is relaxing

to look at a horizon.

It’s relaxing to look far away.

Whereas if I look at something up close to me,

like this pen or my phone or a computer screen

or this microphone, it takes effort.

You’ll sense the effort.

Now, some of that effort is actually eye movements

because you have muscles that can move your eyes

within their sockets.

But a lot of the work, quote unquote, is neural work

of the muscles having to move and contract

such that the lens actually gets thicker

in order to bring the light to the retina

and not to a location in front of it or behind it,

so-called accommodation.

There’s also changes in the size of the pupil

as things are closer and further away from you.

In fact, there’s a simple way to think about this.

Healthy pupils are going to dilate

when you look at something far away from you.

Now, when you see something that excites you

or stresses you out, your pupils also get big.

Your eyes get wide.

But if you look at something far away,

your pupils are going to dilate.

And when you look at things that are closer to you,

when you move them up close,

the pupils are going to shrink.

That’s all part of this accommodation mechanism.

Now, you might say,

why are you telling me about accommodation?

This is crazy.

Why are you telling me about this?

Well, these days we’re spending a lot of time

looking at things, mainly our phones up close

and computers up close, and we are indoors.

If you are a young person,

and even if you are 25 or older,

and you are spending a lot of time

looking at things up close,

and you are not allowing your vision to relax,

in other words, you are not giving your lens

the opportunity to flatten out

and for these muscles to relieve themselves of this work,

you may or may not have migraine headaches.

You may or may not have headaches.

You might, and that could be the cause of those.

But you are also training your eyes

to be good at looking at things up close and not far away,

and as a consequence,

you are reshaping the neural circuitry in your brain,

and it is not good, it is not healthy

to only look at things up close.

Now, there are a lot of recommendations out there right now,

especially with all the lockdowns of the last 12 to 18 months

that people should look up from Zoom every once in a while,

or maybe now I’m hearing that people should take calls

instead of doing Zoom,

or you should look up from your computer screen.

It’s actually not going to solve the problem

just to look up from your computer screen.

You need to go to a window,

you need to look out at a distance.

Ideally, you would even open the window

because those windows actually filter out

a lot of the blue light that you want during the daytime,

a lot of the sunlight.

It’s actually 50 times less gets through.

You want to get out onto a balcony.

You want to relax your eyes and look out at the horizon.

You want to go into what’s called panoramic vision

and let your vision expand.

You want this lens mechanism to be very elastic.

You don’t want it to get stuck in that configuration

of looking at things up close.

Accommodation is a wonderful feature of your visual system,

but you don’t want to push that too hard,

too often, or for too long.

You want to view the horizon.

You want to get outside,

not just to lighten the load on your mind

or to think about other things,

but to maintain the health of your visual system.

In other words, you want to exercise these muscles,

and that involves both the lens moving

and getting kind of thicker and relaxing that lens.

And the relaxation of the lens

is actually one of the best things you can do

for the musculature of the inner eye.

So what’s the protocol?

How often should you do this?

You might be surprised,

but for every 30 minutes of focused work,

you probably want to look up every once in a while

and just try and relax your face and eye muscles,

including your jaw muscles,

because all these things are closely linked

in the brainstem,

and allow your eyes to go into a so-called panoramic vision

where you’re just not really focusing on anything,

and then refocus on your work.

At least every 90 minutes of looking at things up close,

or even if you’re looking at a screen,

a television screen, or you’re watching a movie,

or you’re indoors,

for every 90 minutes of that,

you ideally would have at least 20,

probably more like 30 minutes of being outside,

ideally, but if you can’t be outside,

of non-up-close vision.

Now, you might say, that’s impossible.

How am I supposed to do that?

I’m in an office or I’m in a building.

Get to a window, get outside if you can do it safely,

get onto a balcony, and just let your eyes relax.

Many people are experiencing severe vision problems

because they’re not getting enough sunlight during the day.

They have sleep problems

because they’re not viewing sunlight early in the day.

And as I’ve mentioned in previous episodes,

they’re getting a lot of artificial stimulation,

artificial light stimulation of the eye

in the middle of the night.

All of this is through the visual system.

So migraines, fatigue,

challenges with your eyesight getting worse as you age,

or even in young people,

there’s at least according to the articles,

they describe it as this epidemic of myopia,

can largely be dealt with by getting outside,

going into panoramic vision,

experiencing some distanced vision,

look at things off on the horizon.

If you’re walking or hiking or biking,

not looking at your phone the whole time

that you’re doing that.

If you’re at the bus stop or you’re commuting,

certainly not looking at your phone

the entire time you’re doing that.

So this is vital.

And I want to emphasize another protocol,

although I don’t want to get into it in too much depth

because I want to make sure that I also talk about

a number of other important aspects of the visual system

that are more related to sight.

But getting into optic flow

is very important for de-stressing your system.

When you move through space,

whether or not it’s through walking, biking, even swimming,

if it’s self-generated optic flow,

so probably not driving or motorcycling,

but yes, bicycling or, I don’t know, unicycling.

I don’t know why I thought about unicycling.

There used to be a graduate student at Stanford

who was a really impressive unicycler.

Those are pretty rare.

As long as it’s self-generated optic flow,

meaning you’re generating motion of your body

and the visual images around you are passing by

on your eyes, that is very good for the visual system.

And it’s very good for the mood systems

and the neuromodulator systems of the brain and body

that regulate mood.

This is well-established.

So I’m not telling people to get away

from their phone and their computers.

I spend a lot of time staring at a page,

drawing, writing, texting, et cetera, just like you do.

But we’re really talking about some very simple protocols

that aren’t just designed to improve your sleep,

but are really designed to bolster and enhance your vision.

And of course, because it’s this podcast,

we will also talk about things that you can take

to improve your vision.

But if your visual behavior isn’t right,

and I do believe we should always start with behaviors

and then think about nutrition, supplementation, et cetera.

If your behaviors around vision aren’t right,

you cannot expect to have good healthy eyesight

for a long time, meaning throughout your lifespan.

And if your vision is already poor,

many of these things that I’m talking about today,

perhaps all of them will improve your vision to some degree.

And if your vision is starting to go,

then doing these behaviors is likely to really enhance

the quality of the vision that you will build

and maintain over time.

And all of these are essentially zero cost, okay?

If you live in a very dark environment,

like a cave or outer space,

it’s going to be hard to do some of this stuff.

But if you’re on planet earth, even if there’s cloud cover,

chances are you can do some or most,

or even all of these, some, most, or all days.

What I’m about to describe next is going to seem so silly

on the face of it, but has deep mechanism to support it.

Put simply, when you get tired, your eyelids close.

And when you’re alert, your eyelids are open.

That is because you have neurons in your brain

that depending on your level of alertness

will make it easy or hard to keep your eyes open.

Now that’s a complete duh,

except that we don’t often think about the relationship

between alertness and where we are looking and our eyelids.

Now, I learned this from a colleague of mine in psychiatry

who happens to work on hypnosis.

I’m not going to hypnotize you right now.

That’s actually for a future episode.

But what happens when we get tired?

Our eyelids close and our chin moves down.

We tend to nod out this way.

If you have ever been in a classroom,

certainly not one of mine,

but if you’ve been in a classroom

and the lecture is kind of drawing on,

or it’s the afternoon,

what you’ll notice is that a number of students,

their eyelids are closing and their chin is dropping,

and then you’ll see a bunch of heads bouncing back up.

I was definitely one of those people in class.

If it was post-lunch in the afternoon,

it’s warm, the hum of the air conditioner,

whatever it is, and I just out.

When we’re wide awake, the opposite happens.

Our eyelids are open all the way

and our chin happens to be up.

And no, this is not me telling you to have good posture.

However, what I learned from my colleague at Stanford

is that these circuits actually act in loops.

When we look up,

maybe it’s because these melanopsin cells

are in the bottom of our retina, they are,

and maybe it’s because they’re there

in order to view sunlight, which is overhead, which it is,

but that system of alertness

is linked to the position of our eyes.

So when we look up and our eyelids are up,

it actually has a purpose.

It actually creates a wakefulness signal for the brain.

And so while this might seem like the silliest

and simple tool that I might ever describe on this podcast,

if you are feeling tired,

it actually can be beneficial

to the wakefulness systems of the brain,

including the locus coeruleus

and these areas that release norepinephrine,

to actually look up, to actually look up toward the ceiling.

You don’t want your chin all the way back,

but to look up and to raise your eyes toward the ceiling

and to look up and try and hold that for 10 to 15 seconds.

So this isn’t looking up and closing your eyes

like on a nice sunny day, that’s relaxing.

This is looking up and actually looking up at the ceiling.

It actually triggers some of the areas of the brain

that are involved in wakefulness.

So if you’re somebody who’s falling asleep at your work,

this can be very beneficial.

Likewise, many people are looking at their phone all day

and their chin is down,

and then they’re sitting at a computer

that’s positioned below them

and they’re having trouble staying awake or focusing.

It can be very bad.

I tell Costello this all the time

because he’s always falling asleep

while he’s trying to do his work.

Positioning your computer screen up at eye level

or sometimes having it actually above eye level

can actually create wakefulness and alertness

for the work that you’re going to do.

This is simply because of this connection

between the brainstem circuits

and the other neural circuits that control wakefulness

and eyelids opening and looking up, okay?

So again, it’s remarkably simple, almost laughably simple,

but it’s grounded in some of the most hardwired,

meaning present from birth aspects of our neural circuitry.

And norepinephrine released from locus coeruleus

isn’t just a mouthful,

it’s a really interesting and powerful mechanism

for how the rest of the brain wakes up.

Locus coeruleus hoses the rest of your brain

with norepinephrine in order to wake up those circuits

for work and attention.

And so eyes up is actually a way,

a route into increased alertness.

Eyes down is a route into sleepiness,

into reduced alertness.

And I have only one friend that texts up here,

like on the street, holds his phone up here.

It looks ridiculous.

And yet, if we were trying to create

more sense of alertness, if that’s your goal,

positioning computer screens up high, chin up,

looking up if you need to kind of create

an alertness signal,

not always being chinned down and texting

or working into typewriters or reading below us

is actually going to send a recurring wakefulness signal.

When things are up, we tend to be alert.

When everything’s focused down, including our eyes,

it tends to have a more suppressive or sedative type

signaling to the deeper centers of the brain.

Now, before we move on to the science and tools

and protocols related to pattern vision,

I want to mention another study that was done

by the University of Pennsylvania.

They have a terrific group there that works on sleep.

They made an important discovery

that I think everybody should know about,

which is that children that sleep in rooms

that have a nightlight or dim lights

are much more likely to develop myopia, nearsightedness.

Conversely, children that sleep in very dark rooms,

so either very dim nightlights or complete black,

they have a much lower, statistically speaking,

a significantly lower probability

of developing myopia, nearsightedness.

Now, why is that?

It’s because the wavelengths of light that matter

for these melanopsin cells

oftentimes can get through the eyelids.

And that’s particularly true for children

and people that have thin eyelids.

Some people, like me, have very thin eyelids.

I’ve been told this before.

Not many people touch my eyelids,

but among those that have that very thin eyelids,

I notice I have very thin eyelids compared to, say, Costello.

Now, Costello’s eyes droop.

He can’t even close his eyes all the way.

They’re so droopy.

But many people have thin eyelids,

and those people are going to be even more prone

to light coming in through the eyelid.

So for parents, for kids, and for adults,

you really want to try to get to a place

where you can sleep in a completely

black or dark environment.

One little exposure to light, no big deal,

but this ties back to the other protocol

that I’ve described before in the mood and sleep episodes,

which is that viewing light,

even a very low intensity between the hours

of 10 p.m. and 4 a.m. is extremely detrimental

to the dopamine and other mood-producing systems

of the brain.

It can negatively impact learning and immunity

and even blood sugar and make people type 2 diabetes prone

by way of communication from these melanopsin cells

to a structure in the brain called the habenula.

Why am I throwing out all this verbiage?

Well, because people have asked for more mechanisms.

So if you really want to know, when you look at blue light,

or if blue light is getting in through your eyelids

in the middle of the night,

it is likely distorting these lens accommodation mechanism

in the eye and leading to myopia in some cases.

So that’s one reason to avoid blue light exposure

and bright light exposure,

even nightlight exposure in the middle of the night.

Viewing any light of bright intensity

between the hours of 10 p.m. and 4 a.m.

on a consistent basis is going to suppress dopamine

because of the way that that light activates

these melanopsin cells and the habenula

and the dopamine system.

So it’s all very simple.

Get as much bright light as you can safely, right?

You never want to look at any light so bright

that it’s painful to look at during the daytime.

Try and go without sunglasses unless you need them.

Now, I wear sunglasses for sake of sport

and sake of when it’s really bright out,

but I try to get two hours a day of working outside

or being outside, even if there’s cloud cover,

that’s going to offset myopia.

It’s going to help you get better sleep.

It’s going to support mood and metabolism, et cetera.

And at night, if you’re sleeping

with a lot of lights in the room,

and especially if there are kids that need a nightlight,

you should try and wean them off that nightlight

because it’s going to be beneficial for their vision

to wean them off that nightlight

and put them into a darker environment.

Obviously, you want to get them emotionally comfortable

with that first.

Now let’s talk about pattern vision,

actual seeing things like faces and colors, et cetera.

I’m presuming that some of you out there are colorblind.

We can all help the red-green colorblind folks out there.

By not using red in slides and diagrams

and on menus and things of that sort,

try and use magenta instead.

They can see the contrast between magenta and green better

than if there’s red and green.

So be kind to the colorblind folks out there.

It’s actually a fair percentage.

And there are a lot of different kinds of colorblind.

I should just mention some people are true monochromats.

They see the world in black and white.

That’s exceedingly rare.

Most colorblind people, colorblind in quotes,

are red-green colorblind,

meaning they lack red cone photopigment,

meaning they can’t see long wavelengths of light.

So they see the world much as a canine or a cat does

where they don’t get the green-red contrast.

That’s why we call it red-green colorblind.

They have the green cones,

but they can’t do the contrast comparison

that I described at the beginning of the episode.

So use magenta and they will be able to see things.

You wonder why stop signs and stoplights

and things aren’t in magenta.

Well, because the world is unkind

to the red-green colorblind individuals

and they have to learn the position

of those lights in the streetlights

and they have to learn the shapes of signs,

which they can do readily.

And it usually says stop on it as well.

But if you care about colorblind folks, which I do,

then we could all do them a service by,

I think by law actually in the US,

menus are required to be colorblind accessible.

How can you improve your vision?

How can you get better at seeing things?

Well, one way is to make sure that you spend

at least 10 minutes a day total, at least,

viewing things off in the distance.

So that would be well over half a mile or more.

Try and see a horizon,

try and get your vision out to a location

that’s beyond the four walls of your house or apartment

or the doors of your car and the windshield of your car.

I know that can be hard to do, but it’s very valuable.

If you live in a city like New York

and it’s skyscrapers everywhere,

you’ve probably experienced the incredible

sense of relaxation.

And it’s aesthetically beautiful

when you are walking down one of these long avenues

and you turn.

And I think they have a name for this in New York

where the sunset is suddenly visible

along a long avenue between some skyscrapers.

And it’s just very relaxing to be able suddenly

to see at a distance.

And that’s actually because this eye mechanism

relaxing the lens and relaxing some of the musculature

around the eyes,

send signals deep into the brainstem

that release some of the centers

that are involved in alertness, AKA stress.

And it’s very pleasant for a reason.

It’s not a placebo effect, if you will.

There are a bunch of neurochemicals

and things that are associated with that.

So try and see at a distance

because it’s good for your eyesight.

It’ll keep this lens nice and elastic

and the muscles nice and strong that move the lens.

And it has this relaxing component to it.

Our visual system is exquisitely tuned to motion,

not just our self-generated motion,

but the motion of things around us.

And one of the things that it does

is something called smooth pursuit.

Smooth pursuit is our ability to track individual objects

moving as the name suggests,

smoothly through space in various trajectories.

You can actually train or improve your vision

by looking at smooth pursuit stimuli.

And that sounds really boring.

What you can do is, and I’ll provide a link to some

that I think are pretty good

that are used in various clinics,

ophthalmology and optometry clinics.

You can actually take a few minutes each day,

or maybe if you don’t do it each day,

you could do every third day or so,

and actually just visually track a ball.

Sometimes it’s moving in and kind of an infinity symbol.

Sometimes it’s more of a sawtooth.

Sometimes it’s changing speed.

Sometimes the cue that you’re following,

the little target is dilating and contracting.

This is going to keep the muscles, I want to be clear,

this is going to keep the extraocular muscles

conditioned and strong,

and allow you to have a healthy smooth pursuit system.

Remember, the brain follows the eye.

It follows the movements of the eye.

It has to deal with that.

And the neural circuits within the brain

have to cope with changes in smooth pursuit.

So if you’re doing a lot of reading up close,

you’re not viewing horizons,

you’re not getting a lot of smooth pursuit type stimulation

from your life,

or you’re just getting it within the confines

of a little box on your phone,

like your smooth pursuit is over millimeters

or what we always talk in terms of visual angle,

but the amount of degrees of visual angle.

But if you’re just looking at smooth pursuit

in this little tiny box on your phone

or on your computer screen,

and you’re not looking at objects in your environment,

like swooping birds and things like that,

which I’m guessing many of you

are not spending your time doing,

well, these mechanisms for smooth pursuit

will get worse over time.

Your vision will get worse.

And so while I prefer that people get out

into the real world and experience

smooth pursuit tracking of visual objects,

I don’t know, maybe it’s a good reason

to go to a hockey game or, you know,

and try and keep your eye on the puck,

which I can never seem to do, move so fast.

Or I guess this is a good reason to watch live sports,

if that’s your thing,

or watch a tennis match like a cat, like a kitten,

watching the ball go back and forth.

Whatever, watching kids play, it doesn’t really matter.

The idea is that you want to use the visual system regularly

for what it was designed for,

and smooth pursuit is a great way

to keep the visual and motion tracking systems

of the brain and the eye and the extraocular muscles

working in a really nice coordinate fashion.

I would say five to 10 minutes, three times a week,

will be great.

If you care about your vision,

you can train your vision in this way.

The other one is to train accommodation.

There are a lot of videos out there,

I want to be clear, on the internet,

some of which are from clinicians, some of which are not,

some of which are from scientists,

some of which are from other sources,

talking about things you can do to make your vision better,

to improve your vision.

Most of those are geared toward

improving the extraocular eye muscles.

But I did consult with our chair of ophthalmology

at Stanford School of Medicine, Jeff Goldberg,

who’s an MD and a PhD, a phenomenal scientist

and a phenomenal clinician,

and incidentally, a phenomenal chairman as well,

about what sorts of things, tools,

are actually beneficial for pattern vision and sight,

because there’s just so much out there on the internet,

not all of which is accurate or good, frankly.

And he agreed that a smooth pursuit stimulus,

that kind of training, as well as, or exercise,

as well as near-far.

So spending a few minutes,

you might even just do this for two minutes,

of looking at something up close,

that’s going to activate these accommodation mechanisms,

and then moving it at arm’s length

and focusing on it for five, 10 seconds, maybe more,

maybe 15 or 20 seconds,

then slowly moving it into a location and then out.

This is actually a lot like the visual training

that’s done post-concussion to try and repair,

actually repair some of the balance and motor and visual

and cognitive aspects of the brain.

And we are going to have a guest on in a future time,

that to deal with concussion

and some post-concussion training,

a lot of post-concussion recovery and training

centers around the visual system,

not just because people are trying to recover their vision

and their sense of balance,

but because, as I mentioned earlier,

the brain’s ability to make sense of its environment

and the brain’s ability to parse time,

not just on the day-night schedule,

but also shorter time intervals,

follows the visual system.

Something we’ll turn to a little bit more at the end.

So what does this mean?

The tool is spend two to three minutes

doing smooth pursuit.

There’s some programs on YouTube.

You can just look up smooth pursuit stimulus

and I’ll provide a link to a couple I like as well.

You could do this with a pen if you wanted.

You could do this,

someone else could hold a wand and you could do that.

If you’ve got someone that can do that for you,

practice accommodation for a few minutes,

maybe every other day, just bringing something in close.

You’ll feel the strain of your eyes doing that.

I can feel it right now.

Move it out.

You’ll feel a relaxation point.

Move it past that relaxation point

where you will have to do what’s called a virgin’s eye

movement to maintain focus on that location

as it moves out, bring it back in.

At the point where you actually have to go cross-eyed,

this will differ for different people

depending on how far apart your eyes are,

so-called interpupillary distance.

So for me, I have been teased before

I have a very short interpupillary distance.

I’m not a cyclops, but I’m heading there.

Some people are more wall-eyed, like a flounder.

Well, depending on your interpupillary distance,

the point at which things get blurry

and cross-eyed will vary.

But for me, you know, as I get about,

oh gosh, I guess it’s about six inches from my nose,

it’s really hard, I can’t accommodate any longer.

I move it out another inch and everything’s in nice focus.

Try and see whether or not you can get things closer.

Now, you don’t want to get cross-eyed.

Remember what your parents told you?

Or my parents told me that if you cross your eyes

when you’re young, that they can stay that way.

Actually, they won’t necessarily stay that way,

but your brain can start losing information

and the ability to see binocular depth,

something we’ll talk about in a moment.

But for now, the protocol would be, you know,

two to three, maybe five minutes.

Just practice that, practice accommodation,

and then be sure to give your eyes some rest.

Get outside, look at a horizon, or do nothing.

Just kind of let your eyes go soft.

I guess what the yogis would call soft gaze.

Just kind of relax your eyelids.

Not this, not eyes closed.

Just relax, panoramic vision.

Try and see the walls around you without moving your head.

Exercise your eye muscles.

Exercise the accommodation mechanisms of your eyes.

Practice a little bit of smooth pursuit.

You don’t have to be neurotic about this,

but if you do this often enough,

meaning every other day, every third day or so,

you can be the strange person on the plane

or in the classroom doing this.

You know, people might chuckle or look at you funny

or tease you, but that’s okay

because you’ll be able to see

when they are losing their vision.

So you’ll get the last laugh.

Please don’t laugh at them,

but maybe you can help them at that point.

You can hold the pen for them.

It’s worth doing.

It’s really worth preserving your vision.

And again, if you’re a young person, this is great

because then you can actually build

an extra strong visual system

using all the tools that we’re describing.

I do want to talk about a new set of findings

that are related to red light

and offsetting age-related macular degeneration.

There are a lot of ways in which our visual system

gets worse over time,

but one is so-called age-related macular degeneration.

Glenn Jeffrey at the University College of London,

somebody I’ve known for decades because he’s a scientist,

has done beautiful work on development

and function of the visual system,

has published a number of papers recently.

One that got a particularly high amount of attention

in the press was one that showed

that flashing red light into the eyes early in the day,

not late in the day, early in the day,

can help offset some age-related macular degeneration,

presumably by enhancing the mitochondrial function

in the photoreceptors.

There does seem to be some evidence for that,

although it’s still early days.

I want to emphasize,

you don’t want to shine really bright lights into your eyes.

You never want to look at any light that’s so bright

that it’s painful.

And you never want to force your eyelids to stay open.

If you need to close your eyes in order to be comfortable,

well, then chances are that light is too bright.

But doing just a couple minutes a day,

two minutes a day of flashing this red light

into one eye and then the other,

as long as it was early in the day, before noontime,

and as long as it was in individuals

that were 40 years or older,

did seem to have a significant effect

in offsetting some of the age-related macular degeneration

that would otherwise occur.

Again, these are early findings.

If you want to do this, please be careful.

Please talk to your optometrist and or ophthalmologist.

Your eyesight is precious.

You don’t want to damage it,

but it is interesting,

and it does seem like red light

can improve the function of the mitochondria.

These photoreceptors have a lot of mitochondria,

the energy-producing organelles within the cells,

because they are some of the most metabolically active cells

in your entire body.

Your photoreceptors are active all the time

as you’re looking around,

and even when your eyes are closed, they’re active.

In fact, through a weird twist of the biology,

and please look this up

if you’re really interested in this,

your photoreceptors are actually most active in the dark.

This is so weird.

It’s a twist of biology, the way the system’s arranged,

that when light comes on, they shut off their activity.

So actually, whether or not you see something

in front of you like this pen or my face

is because the way your photoreceptors are turning off,

not turning on.

It’s a really cool twist,

and I don’t want to go too far down that rabbit hole,

but check it out.

If you’re interested in how photoreceptors work,

it’s an absolutely incredible literature.

Just Google, excuse me, look up on the web.

We are not partial just to Google.

I happen to use Google,

but use your web browser to look up

photoreceptors hyperpolarization site,

and you can learn a lot about that

if you’re a real nerd for this stuff like I am.

Okay, so red light to the eye can perhaps, it seems,

help maintain vision, doing smooth pursuit exercises,

and accommodation, near-far exercises.

Some people suffer from poor eyesight

simply because their eyes get dry.

There are incredible, believe it or not,

lubricating mechanisms for the eye,

not just tears, but thin sheet of oil.

I mean, it’s just amazing.

Unless you have some sort of corneal abrasion,

the cornea is the clear stuff on the outside of your eye,

corneal abrasion, when you blink, it’s smooth.

You don’t feel it.

It’s just really, really smooth,

and yet if you’ve ever had a corneal scratch,

I’ve had this, it’s really rough.

It is so painful.

You have a ton of pain receptors in the cornea.

The lubrication of the cornea is supported by blinking.

And while it seems a little silly,

some people actually benefit from doing, you know,

some, you know, five or 10 or 15 seconds of blinking,

and then doing their focused work.

Some people, their eyes are drying out

because as we focus, if we’re trying to do something,

our eyelids stay open, the eyes can dry out,

but it also can make it such that

when we blink the next time,

there’s a kind of a need to focus

because there’s some distortions in these oils and liquids

across the corneal surface.

If you’re somebody who suffers from dry eye,

I do hope they’ll find a treatment or a cure for dry eye

soon, there isn’t one at present.

Someone stands to make a lot of money out there.

If you can find a cure for dry eye,

let the companies know or start a company.

Right now, it’s still a mystery as to how to do that,

but blinking for five to 15 seconds,

probably slowly, not as quickly as I’m doing here on video,

but just, you know, maybe a blink every second or two,

for 15 seconds can lubricate the eyes.

And that’s not directly related to anything neural,

it’s just going to allow the optics of your eye to be clear.

Just like when the screen of your phone gets dirty,

like when Costello is texting on my phone

and I pick it up and it’s like covered with smudge,

to clean it off in order to see things clearly,

the same thing is happening for these optical devices

on the front of your brain.

Remember, these are brain.

Okay, so a lot of protocols today, almost all of them,

behavioral protocols.

I do want to talk a little bit more about vision

and how it works internally.

And then I also want to talk about

some of the foods and supplements that have been shown

to support vision and offset visual loss,

and maybe even reverse some visual loss.

Let’s talk about binocular vision and lazy eye.

I’m very familiar with lazy eye because when I was a kid,

I went swimming one day, one day,

and I didn’t have my goggles.

And so something must’ve been happening, as I recall,

with the eye moving down through the water.

I’ve always had this problem that I can only do

the freestyle stroke off to one side.

The people I swim with are always laughing.

Somehow I kind of move toward drowning

when I try and breathe on the right side.

I think there’s some asymmetry in the way I’m organized.

Anyway, I was off to my left and my eye kept going

in and out of the water and there was chlorine in the water

and it was making my eye uncomfortable,

so I just closed my eye.

I just decided, you know,

I knew more or less how to swim straight-ish.

Might’ve bounced off the lane lines a few times,

but I just used the other eye to kind of steer

for that mark on the wall.

Got out of the pool, took a shower, dried off,

and then completely lost binocular vision for three days.


The young brain, up until about age seven,

but maybe even extending out until about age 12,

is extremely vulnerable to differences in ocular input

between the two eyes.

My scientific great-grandparents won the Nobel Prize

for discovering so-called critical periods,

periods of time in which the brain is more plastic,

more able to change.

Those two guys, David Hubel and Torsten Wiesel,

thank you, David and Torsten,

forever changed the face of visual neuroscience

and forever changed the way we think

about treatment of the young brain.

It used to be thought that you wouldn’t want to do a surgery

on a young kid because of risk of anesthesia

in young individuals,

but we now know that you need to repair these imbalances

that even a few hours, okay?

I don’t want to scare anybody.

I’ll talk about reversal,

but a few hours of occluding one eye early in life

can lead to permanent, unless something’s done,

permanent changes in the way that the brain perceives

the outside world,

such that when that eye is opened up again,

the brain actually can’t make sense of anything

that’s coming through it.

It shuts down that visual pathway somehow.

So what happened to me was I actually was,

my eye was fine.

I got out of the pool, I opened my eye,

but I couldn’t see through that eye.

Everything was blurry, double vision,

unless I covered this eye,

and then I could see perfectly fine.

Fortunately, I went to an ophthalmologist

who understood the literature.

Thank you, Dr. Mark Lurie,

who understood the literature

and made it clear that what I needed to do

was to occlude the other eye,

the eye that was working very well.

Clearly he understood the work of Hubel and Wiesel.

Now, again, you don’t want to start playing games

with this kind of stuff when you’re a kid.

If you wear, let’s say you have a Halloween costume

and you wear an eye patch,

you’re a pirate or something for Halloween,

and you cover it up on one side,

probably for the night of Halloween, it’s okay.

I do not recommend doing that recreationally

if you don’t need that,

if you’re a young child or for your child to do that,

because indeed you create imbalances in the brain machinery

that compares information coming in through the two eyes,

and it can shut down the neural information

for the occluded, the closed eye.

Now, I was able to reverse this issue,

but my binocular vision has never been terrific.

I’m much better at the dartboard and still not very good.

If I close one eye, I’m much better at the pool table.

If I close one eye and I still am terrible.

I was the kid and, you know, in the outfield,

you know, the ball’s coming towards me,

the ball’s coming towards me.

I’m going to catch the ball

and like a hit me square in the lip.

My binocular vision isn’t great

as a consequence of this early event.

And I have a hard time with those binocular stereograms,

those images that are kind of,

you’re supposed to look at them,

and then the binocular depth image like pops out.

All the other kids were going,

there’s the whatever, the Statue of Liberty,

there’s the American, I see dots, okay?

So I have binocular vision, but I use other cues.

I use the near-far cues that I talked about before,

motion parallax, the fact that things are closer to me

are moving faster than things further away

in order to judge depth.

And years later, when I got involved in,

and I don’t suggest this for most people,

I got involved in boxing and martial arts when I was younger.

Sometimes we’ll see fighters,

this is a slip to avoid getting punched.

It’s also generating motion parallax.

Many animals judge depth by moving their head,

not by using other mechanisms of accommodation, okay?

So a lot of birds and monkeys and animals

will judge depth by moving their head like this,

or they’ll move from side to side.

Animals that will undulate sometimes

are actually doing a depth measurement

because as you move from side to side,

the brain is able to do the math of depth.

So what does this all mean in terms of protocols?

If you’re a young person,

do your best to get really good binocular vision,

not just at level of your phone or your tablet,

but also at distance.

You will build strong binocular visual machinery

in the brain and at the level of the eyes

and the eye musculature.

Now, if you’re somebody who did have an occlusion,

what’s needed is to cover up the other eye,

to create an imbalance so that the weak eye,

the so-called lazy eye,

that’s sometimes referred to as amblyopia,

that eye has to work harder.

So for me, they patched this other eye and made this eye,

eventually I got vision through that eye back,

then they opened them both up.

Now, you might ask,

what happens if you cover both eyes early in life?

And this is where it gets interesting.

You might think, well,

if covering one eye leads to poor vision for that eye

after that eye is open,

covering both eyes will probably make you blind, right?

Actually, that’s not what happens.

What Hubel and Wiesel discovered

and what’s been affirmed many, many more times over

in subsequent studies is that it’s competitive,

that the two eyes are competing

for real estate up in the brain.

So if you actually cover both eyes,

you actually extend the period of critical plasticity.

This is a really interesting aspect

that other people are starting to leverage now

in terms of how to reopen plasticity later in life.

But please don’t go around

with your eyes covered for too long.

There are some like retreats and stuff

where people go into caves with absolutely no vision,

creates hallucinations.

We’ll talk about why that is in just a moment.

But here’s my suggestion.

Try and get balanced visual input through the two eyes.

Almost everybody has a dominant eye.

It usually doesn’t relate to your dominant hand,

although it can.

And so for me, if I cover up my right eye,

I see much less well, much more poorly.

It’s a little bit fuzzy and I have to work harder

in order to see the camera, for instance.

Then if I cover up my left eye,

it’s actually really easy for me to relax.

I have a dominant eye.

Yeah, you can balance that out

by covering up the dominant eye a little bit each day.

But I would warn any young people,

meaning 12 or younger, against creating these imbalances

if there isn’t a clinical need to do that.

And if you do have strong imbalances between the two eyes,

which can be caused by cataract and lens issues,

can be caused by neuromuscular issues, et cetera,

to try and get those dealt with as early as possible

by contacting a really good ophthalmologist

and ideally a neuro-ophthalmologist.

It is very normal, I should say it’s very common

for young children, babies to have an eye with strabismus

that either deviates out or that deviates in.

It is important to correct that

if you would like to have balanced vision

between the two eyes and for the brain to respond

equally to the two eyes and to have,

I would say high fidelity quality vision.

Although some people who have an eye that drifts

can function normally in life,

you have an opportunity early in life to rescue that.

I won’t do, well, maybe I will do this,

but I can actually relax this eye.

It’s so weak in some cases

that it actually can start to deviate.

Here, I’ll just do this here.

It’s not crossing my eyes.

So I actually can move my, I can misalign my eyes

because I have to fight very hard

to have the musculature for this eye

keep that eye aligned with the other eye.

And that’s because I’ve been doing eye exercises

since I was in my 20s

because I noticed when I would study a lot,

this eye would start to drift in.

I’d start to see double

and then next thing you know,

I was just covering the eye up.

It was getting weaker and weaker,

just like the atrophy of a muscle.

So I went to the doctor.

What did they do?

They did the exact wrong thing.

The optometrist I went to gave me a prism

which adjusted it so that I could see things normally,

which just made the eye weaker and weaker.

It’s like putting a weak arm into a sling.

So I had to spend at least three years of 10 minutes a day,

it’s what I recommend,

doing near-far, covering up my good eye,

doing near-far with my bad eye,

and now it’s been about 10, 12 years

that I have pretty decent binocular vision.

Now, many of you aren’t dealing with this

or have these early childhood issues.

Some of you might be experiencing challenges

with fatigued eyes

or with differences in focus with the two eyes.

These eye exercises of near-far, smooth pursuit

and checking for dominant and non-dominant eye

can be very beneficial.

Again, I’m not a clinician,

so I don’t want to give you protocols

or enforce protocols on anybody.

You need to figure out what’s right and safe for you,

given your vision history.

I do recommend talking to a really good ophthalmologist

if you have severe vision problems of any kind,

or if you want to offset vision problems of any kind,

an optometrist as well,

but ideally it would be a neuro-ophthalmologist.

Okay, I did mention hallucinations

and they’re fun to talk about and think about.

For years, people have asked,

why do people get visual hallucinations?

Costello’s in sleep right now.

You can probably hear him snoring.

He’s snoring so loud.

He’s probably having hallucinations about rabbits, pizza,

and those are mainly his favorite thing, and sleep.

He’s dreaming about sleep in sleep.

Hallucinations are a property of the visual system,

and it was always thought that hallucinations arise

because of over-activation or activation

of certain aspects of the visual system.

I just briefly want to mention a paper

that was published by my good friend

and phenomenal scientist and physicist for that matter,

Chris Neal, who’s up at the University of Oregon in Eugene.

They studied LSD-like compounds and discovered

that hallucinations actually occur

because portions of your brain become underactive.

The visual portions of the brain are under-stimulated.

This is probably why when people go into these cave retreats,

something I’ve never done, I don’t think I ever will do,

where it’s completely black,

pretty soon they start hallucinating.

They start seeing things even though there’s nothing there.

The visual system is desperate to make guesses

about what’s out in the world.

It’s like the eager beaver of your brain.

It’s like, what’s out there?

What’s out there?

What’s out there?

Even in low to no vision people, blind people,

their brain is going to be making guesses

about what’s out there in the auditory world,

what sounds are there, what touch sensations are there.

For sighted folks, it’s going to be

what’s out there in terms of light.

Light is the dominant way,

vision is the dominant way

that we evaluate the world around us.

So it turns out that hallucinations

are an under activation of the visual system

and then a compensatory, a compensation

by which the visual system creates activity

and hallucinations.

So if you’re in the dark long enough,

you start to hallucinate and see things.

So that’s a little note about hallucinations.

One of the things that you can do to improve your vision,

and it’s also kind of fun,

is to put a Snellen chart in your home.

A Snellen chart is that list of letters.

If you go to the dreaded Department of Motor Vehicles,

actually I’m up for renewal soon.

So I love the Department of Motor Vehicles.

The Department of Motor Vehicles

will have you cover up an eye,

read the letters on the chart.

The letters of course get smaller and smaller.

They’re trying to figure out roughly what your vision is.

Cover up the other eye, you’ll do that.

Some people, including nerdy vision scientists like me,

have had Snellen charts in their office

or in their home for many years now.

And you can just practice and you can see how you’re doing

sitting at a particular distance.

This is something that’s not often mentioned,

but your performance on the Snellen chart will vary

depending on time of day,

because your level of fatigue

and your ability to control that accommodation

and other mechanisms of the eye muscles will vary.

So you can take it as an average.

It’s also a good thing

if you’re going to get your vision tested

for corrective lenses,

or maybe you’re going to do laser surgery

or something of that sort.

If you’re thinking about any of that,

to really get it measured by a professional,

the ones that you get in those supermarkets

or in many eyeglass stores,

apologies to the eyeglass stores,

are often wrong by an order of magnitude.

And then when you start putting corrective lenses on

that are over-correcting or under-correcting,

but more often are over-correcting,

then you’re essentially weakening the system.

It’s like putting a prosthetic on a limb

that you didn’t necessarily need,

or a robot arm when you didn’t need

the use of the robot arm.

Although now there’s so much excitement about robots.

I think people are going to be doing that.

Anyway, nonetheless,

get your vision tested by somebody

who really understands vision,

like an ophthalmologist or a really good optometrist.

If you put a Snellen chart in your home,

you can do that as part of your visual training.

Now, this might seem excessively nerdy,

but what is more important than your eyesight?

Eyesight is so vital.

It’s right up there with movement

and our ability to move, to generate,

to get up out of chairs and to walk and to run

and to take care of ourselves.

Eyesight and movement are the main ways

that we are able to take care of ourselves

and take care of others.

When you start having compromised eyesight

or compromised movement,

people need to take care of us

and we become much more challenged

in moving through our daily life.

So while it might seem nerdy

to have a Snellen chart in your home,

or to do a smooth pursuit exercise a couple of times a week,

or to get outside for a few hours a day

and do your reading or your laptop work there,

preserving your eyesight and preserving your vision

is one of the most life enhancing

or quality of life enhancing things that you can do.

And if you’re a young person

and you can build some of this

into your framework of exercise or brain training,

if you want to call it that,

that can be immensely beneficial

and will really set you up to have really good vision

over a long period of time.

Now, of course, there are genetic factors

and there are injury related factors

that can compromise eyesight and our ability to see.

And of course, the things I’m talking about today

aren’t going to solve all those issues,

but they can have a tremendous positive impact

if you’re willing to do just a little bit of work.

And none of this is involving any cost, right?

It’s just time cost.

So I do want to talk about a few other things

that can perhaps improve vision.

I want to dispel a few myths

about stuff to take to improve vision.

And then I want to just close

by talking about how we perceive time using our vision,

because that will nicely set the stage

for what we’re going to talk about next episode.

So now you understand a lot about the biology of vision.

You understand that light has to arrive at the retina

and get converted into electrical signals.

That process requires things like vitamin A,

a fat soluble vitamin.

It requires things like the carotenoids.

That metabolic cascade,

that biochemical cascade is essential for vision.

And this is why you’ve been told

that carrots help you see better

because they’re high in vitamin A.

There are a few simple things you can do

to support your vision.

First of all, it is true that eating vegetables,

the dark leafy vegetables,

and things like carrots that have vitamin A in abundance,

and eating them in close to their raw form,

so naturally occurring foods

that contain a lot of vitamin A in their raw form

can help support vision.

Now, does that mean that if you ingest

super physiological amounts of that stuff

that it’s going to make your vision that much better?

No, but you do need a threshold level of vitamin A

in order to see, and in order to see well.

Now, there’s a lot of excitement nowadays

about supplementation to help support the health

of the visual system.

And I’m somebody who’s pretty open

to novel forms of supplementation.

You’ve probably gathered that

if you’ve been listening to this podcast for a while.

You have to determine what’s safe,

and economical, and right for you,

what your risk tolerance is, et cetera.

But I want to talk about a molecule

that’s in a lot of supplements to support vision.

And there are some really good data on, and that’s lutein.

Now, the study I want to describe

is actually published in 2016.

It’s from the Journal of Ophthalmology.

It’s a good journal.

And the title of this paper might catch your attention.

It’s Increased Macular Pigment Optical Density.

That just means that the macula is an area of the eye

for central vision, for high acuity vision.

Pigment density there is good.

You want pigment there.

Increased macular pigment optical density

and visual acuity.

Visual acuity is your ability to see things in fine detail.

Following consumption of a buttermilk drink

containing lutein-enriched egg yolks.

Remember raw foods?

Lutein-enriched egg yolks.

Sounds like a Rocky movie

where he would drink the raw egg yolks.

A randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial.

Now, I’m not suggesting you go out and eat raw egg yolks.

There’s the risk of salmonella.

Although I did hear this, someone correct me if I’m wrong,

that the salmonella is actually on the outside of the egg,

not actually in the egg itself.

It’s on the shell for reasons that relate

to how that egg got into the world.

That’s where the salmonella lives.

But I could be wrong about that.

But raw egg yolks are not something

that most people want to consume.

What is this lutein stuff?

Well, lutein is in the pathway that relates to vitamin A

and the formation of the opsin, the photopigment

that captures light in the back of your eye,

literally absorbs light pigment in your eye

and converts that into electrical signals

and allows you to see.

And there is some evidence.

I spoke to our chair of ophthalmology.

There is some evidence through quality peer-reviewed studies

that supplementing with lutein can help offset

some of the detrimental effects

of age-related macular degeneration.

But, I want to emphasize but, or emphasize however,

only for individuals with moderate

to severe macular degeneration.

For people that have normal vision

or with just a low degree of macular degeneration,

these studies did not see a significant improvement

of vision from supplementing with lutein.

So, I’m not going to tell you

to supplement with lutein or not.

I don’t think any study is holy,

but it does seem that if you have moderate

to severe macular degeneration,

talk to your physician of course,

talk to your ophthalmologist.

I’ll always say that and I’ll say it three times.

Supplementing with lutein could perhaps

support vision and offset some visual loss in that case.

Probably also talk to your ophthalmologist

or consider the red light therapy

that I talked about earlier.

Whereas if you have normal vision

or a low amount of macular degeneration,

it does not seem at least from these studies

that lutein can have much of an effect.

Now, I know and I confess I’m sort of of the mind

that if I personally had age-related macular degeneration

or a propensity for it in my family,

which fortunately I don’t.

But in that case, I would think that supplementing

with lutein provided it’s safe,

could perhaps be of benefit.

You might want to consider a low dose of that.

So again, I’m not pushing any of this on anybody

by any means, but you should know that

under certain conditions of severe macular degeneration

or moderate macular degeneration,

it does seem like lutein can be beneficial.

It does not have to be consumed through raw egg yolks,

although that is the highest density source.

Cooking your eggs, if you like your scrambled eggs dry

or you like your eggs not easy over or whatever, not runny,

then you aren’t going to get the benefits of the lutein.

There are other sources of lutein,

non-animal sources of lutein as well.

You can look those up on the internet.

Now, there are other compounds that have been shown

to perhaps be important for offsetting

or helping different forms of vision loss.

One is, I’m going to spell this out,

I-D-E-B-E-N-O-N-E, indabone, indabenone, indabenone.

I can never pronounce these compounds, forgive me,

unless I’ve worked with them.

There is evidence that it can be beneficial

for Leber’s congenital eye disease.

I would definitely go onto, put in I-D-E-B-E-N-O-N-E

and for things like Leber’s optic neuropathies,

which is a degenerative condition of the eye.

Whether or not people should just be taking this stuff

anyway is still an open question.

There aren’t a lot of studies about it.

A lot of people that are interested in taking things

to support their vision are taking lutein

as a preventative measure.

I don’t pass any judgment one way or the other.

Typically those supplements also include the zeaxanthins

and the astaxanthins.

Okay, the pronunciation of this is terrible, I’m sure,

but that’s not too far off,

but basically Z-E-A-X-A-N-T-H-I-N.

You can see why it’s hard to pronounce, Z-E-A-X-A-N-T-H-I-N.

And the other one is A-S-T-A-X-A-N-T-H-I-N.

Both of these have been shown, excuse me,

both of these have been shown to offset some

of the disruption in vision that occurs with aging.

What is Aztec saxanthin?

It’s a really interesting compound.

It’s the red-pink pigment found in various seafoods.

So shrimp, I’m not a big seafood fan,

but like certain fish, like the,

you’ll see at the fish market

will have that red-pink pigment.

And it’s also in the feathers of flamingos.

Please don’t eat the feathers of flamingos

and please also don’t eat flamingos.

It’s structurally similar to beta carotene.

So it’s very pro-vitamin A,

but it has some chemical differences

which may make it safer than vitamin A.

Remember vitamin A is a lipid soluble vitamin.

So it can be stored in our body for long periods of time.

What is the deal with this Aztec saxanthin?

You know, what are its drawbacks?

Well, we can go to our ever favorite

What does it do?

Well, it has a number of different effects,

a huge number in fact,

but it does seem to notably increase,

it’s now been shown in three studies,

the antioxidant enzyme profile.

It has a number of different effects,

but the most notable for sake of this episode

is the one on ocular blood flow.

It does seem to increase the amount of ocular blood flow.

So the blood supply to the eyes.

So that makes it an interesting compound.

It has a number of other effects for whatever reason.

It also has a notable effect,

several studies have shown this,

on fertility in males.

So it seems to at least double the pregnancy rate

when men take Aztec saxanthin

and works as in particular, it seems here,

in men that were previously infertile.

So I don’t know if that has something to do

with the blood flow to the eyes, probably not.

It probably has something to do

with something unrelated to the eyes.

Nonetheless, that’s an effect of this molecule.

It’s also been shown to have positive effects

on things like skin elasticity, skin moisture,

skin quality, et cetera,

probably due to its effects on blood flow.

So lutein, azaxanthin, A-S-T-A-X-A-N-T-H-I-N.

And for people who have concerns

about Leber’s optic neuropathies,

which is going to be a small percentage

of people out there, but that is a pretty severe condition.

There are supplements that are available out there.

I do encourage you as always to talk to your ophthalmologist

and physician about them.

And I will say that there are a number of people

that take lutein and some of these other things

as a precautionary measure

in order to bolster their health.

In the same way that some people take vitamins and minerals

to bolster their health, and some people are very health,

excuse me, and some people are very averse

to taking vitamins and minerals

because they feel like they can get all that

from healthy whole foods.

And of course you can get these things from whole foods.

The question is whether or not you can get them

in concentrations that are sufficient.

I do think that in the years to come,

we are going to see more about lutein.

I think we are going to see more

about some of these other compounds like astaxanthin,

and hopefully by then I’ll be able to pronounce it.

But at present, these things are more or less

in the kind of experimental or self-experimental phase.

There are some good double-blind placebo-controlled studies

like the egg yolk buttermilk study of all things

published in really good journals.

Journal of Ophthalmology,

Journal Investigative Ophthalmology and Vision Sciences.

These are good journals.

These are journals that are peer-reviewed by experts.

The study that I mentioned earlier

about keeping rooms dark,

that was also published in an excellent journal.

I think it was JAMA.

I’ll go back and look.

It’s not on my screen any longer, but very easy to find.

And there’ve been some follow-up studies as well

from the University of Pennsylvania and other universities.

So everything I’ve talked about today

relates to studies that were done

and published in quality peer-reviewed journals.

That doesn’t necessarily mean you want to run out

and start taking the stuff that I’ve described

or even doing the protocols I’ve described.

I’ve given you an array, a palette, a buffet, if you will,

of things that you could do to try and enhance

or support your vision,

depending on how good your vision is,

your family history of vision and vision loss,

your occupational hazards.

You know, people that work with metal filings

that are flying out of machines

are going to have a higher degree of vision,

you know, risk to their visual system

than will people who just do office work.

Although if you’re doing a lot of office work,

chances are you’re not getting a lot of long view vision,

your accommodation mechanisms

are going to start to suffer over time.

I think we can reliably predict that.

So I’ve tried to give you an array of behavioral tools

and we did touch upon some supplementation tools.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t say that

because blood flow is so critical

for the neurons of the eye,

remember these are the most metabolically active cells

in your entire body, the cells within your retina,

because blood flow is required

to get them the energy and nutrients they need.

Having a healthy cardiovascular system, right?

Doing endurance work, doing strength training work

regularly is going to support your eyes

and your brain and your vision.

It’s indirect, but it’s essential, right?

It’s necessary, but it’s not going to be sufficient.

You’re going to have to do other things

to support your eyesight as well.

But having a healthy cardiovascular system

because it’s going to deliver blood and oxygen

and nutrients to this incredible apparati

on the front of your face,

these two pieces of brain is going to support

your overall brain health and vision over time.

So early in the podcast,

I talked about how the optimal window

for learning is 90 minutes.

That’s the so-called ultradian cycle for learning.

That’s why we held our episodes to about 90 minutes.

They’re now starting to extend

into the hour and 50 minute and two hour mark.

That simply reflects my enthusiasm

and excitement about these topics

and my desire to give you as much information

as I possibly can in each episode.

Please remember, you don’t have to listen

to the whole episode all at once.

Everything is timestamped.

Everything is captioned in English and Spanish.

The captions take a few days on YouTube.

We apologize for that,

but in order to have them done correctly,

it takes a few days after it’s posted.

So if you need those captions,

please check back maybe 24 or 48 hours

after the episodes are released.

If you’re enjoying this podcast and the information,

if you’re finding it beneficial,

there are a couple of things that you can do

that are totally zero cost that really help us

and help you get this information going forward.

One is, if you don’t already subscribe on YouTube,

please do subscribe.

We release episodes every Monday

and hopefully soon more often than that,

shorter episodes as well.

But every Monday we release an episode,

please do subscribe.

If you don’t already subscribe on Apple and Spotify,

that’s very beneficial.

Please do that.

That helps us as well.

If you could give us a five-star review on Apple,

if you feel that that’s what we deserve.

And Apple also gives you the opportunity

to give us comments, feedback about the episodes.

If you have suggestions about episodes,

feedback of any kind,

please put it in the comment section on YouTube.

Routinely throughout the week

after the release of each episode,

I cover content in shorter format

and in more depth on Instagram at Huberman Lab.

Every episode is also indexed and searchable

in the search function on our website,

That’s also where we post links to various studies

and downloadable protocols, all zero cost.

And as I mentioned, you can search for different topics

and it will bring you to the particular episodes

that contain the information on those topics.

As well, if you’d like to support us,

please check out our sponsors.

The sponsors that we discussed

at the beginning of the podcast

are a vital way to keep the information

being distributed at zero cost to everybody.

We only work with sponsors that we really love their products

and that we really respect the people

that we’re working with there.

And of course, there’s no obligation

to purchase or to even check out those sponsors,

but if you’re in a position to do so,

that really does help us.

And as mentioned at the beginning of today’s episode,

we are now partnered with Momentous Supplements

because they make single ingredient formulations

that are of the absolute highest quality

and they ship international.

If you go to slash Huberman,

you will find many of the supplements

that have been discussed on various episodes

of the Huberman Lab podcast,

and you will find various protocols

related to those supplements.

And last but not least,

I want to thank you for your time and attention today.

Your willingness to learn about vision

in the visual system and the various things

that you can do to help support the health

and functioning of your visual system.

And of course, I want to thank you

for your interest in science.

And I’ll see you next time.

comments powered by Disqus