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.
Recently, I had the pleasure of hosting two live events,
one in Seattle, Washington, and one in Portland, Oregon,
both entitled The Brain-Body Contract,
where I discussed science and science-related tools
for mental health, physical health, and performance.
My favorite part of each evening, however,
was the question-and-answer period
that followed the lecture.
I love the question-and-answer period
because it gives me an opportunity
to hear directly from the audience
as to what they want to know most,
and indeed, to get into a bit of dialogue
so we really clarify what are the underlying mechanisms
of particular tools, how best to use the tools
for things like focus and sleep.
We also touched on some things
related to mental health and physical health.
It was a delight for me,
and I like to think that the audience learned a lot.
I know that many of you weren’t able to attend those events,
but we wanted to make the information available to you.
So what follows this is a recording
of the question-and-answer period
from the lecture in Seattle, Washington.
I hope you’ll find it to be both interesting and informative.
I’d also like to thank our sponsors of these live events.
The first is Momentous Supplements,
which is our partner with the Huberman Lab Podcast,
providing supplements that are of the very highest quality,
that ship international,
and that are arranged in dosages
and single-ingredient formulations
that make it possible for you
to develop the optimal supplement strategy for you.
And I’d also like to thank our other sponsor,
which is InsideTracker,
which provides blood tests and DNA tests
so you can monitor your immediate
and long-term health progress.
I’d also like to announce
that there are two new live events scheduled.
The first one is going to take place Sunday, October 16th
at the Wiltern Theater in Los Angeles.
The other live event will take place Wednesday, November 9th
at the Beacon Theater in New York City.
Tickets to both of those events are now available online
at hubermanlab.com slash tour.
That’s hubermanlab.com slash tour.
I do hope that you learn from and enjoy the recording
of the question and answer period that follows this.
And last, but certainly not least,
thank you for your interest in science.
What is your most used protocol?
I’m assuming that you mean the protocol that I use the most.
I genuinely do the morning sunlight viewing this evening.
I went and looked at the sunset every single evening,
and I absolutely do 10 to 30 minutes
of some non-sleep-deep-rest protocol every single day.
Every single day.
The reason I called it non-sleep-deep-rest
is because while I love the classic traditions
and things like yoga nidra,
my fear was that if I called things yoga nidra
that people would get spooked.
But I also have to say that I rather loathe
the fact that scientists use so many fancy terms
that it also vaults information
from the very people that fund the work.
So I have a kind of an ax to grind
with the scientific community, too.
So non-sleep-deep-rest was my attempt to kind of
put my arms around a number of different things
like yoga nidra, which I have great reverence for,
and other tools like that.
I do that usually in the early afternoon,
or if I wake up first thing in the morning
and I haven’t slept enough or not that well,
I’ll do 30 minutes of yoga nidra,
and I feel terrific after that.
I’ll just mention a brief anecdote.
I learned about yoga nidra while researching a book
that I never wrote that may or may not ever be published.
I went and spent a week in a trauma center
and addiction treatment center in Florida
and saw some amazing work of some amazing people
and some amazing transformations,
and it was a big part of their daily routine
for these people to do yoga nidra and non-sleep-deep-rest,
and I thought they’re really onto something here.
So almost religiously for me, every day, 10 to 30 minutes.
Not that it matters, but the CEO of Google’s
really into NSDR, I don’t know him,
but he’s written about that a number of times.
In Seattle, sunrise varies from 4.30 a.m. to 9 a.m.,
depending on season.
So are you recommending to vary your wake up
outside time with the seasons?
You know, you don’t need to see the sun cross the horizon.
That would be great, but not everyone
can wake up with the sun.
You want to get so-called low solar angle sunlight.
Because of that yellow-blue contrast
that we talked about before.
Many people wake up before the sun is out.
If that case, if you wanna be awake,
turn on as many bright lights as you can.
Up here, I don’t know, does anyone here,
you don’t have to admit this if you don’t want to,
but maybe nod or raise your hand
if you’re comfortable with me,
that in the winter you feel less well,
or typically in the transition.
Yeah, it’s huge up here.
It’s really, it’s amazing.
And then when you’re on campus,
or that’s where I’ve spent time,
and you see Rainier, and it’s like the blossoms are out,
and you feel almost high, because that’s dopamine.
You know, animals that have white pellage in the winter,
and then it turns dark in the summer and spring months,
that pathway, the melanin pathway is from tyrosine,
which is the precursor to dopamine,
and also to melanin production in the fur.
So the whole system is linked.
It’s not rigged, it’s linked.
So what do I suggest?
I suggest in the winter months,
getting 30 minutes of sunlight viewing.
I know it’s a lot, but it’s much better
than feeling lousy all day.
And then the real key in the winter
is to try and catch some sunlight before it goes down.
If you’re indoors and it goes down,
and then you go outside and it’s dark,
your brain and body don’t really know
where they are in time.
And then you flip on Ozark, and you’re watching Ozark,
and then you really don’t know where you are in time.
I have one more episode, Don’t Tell Me What Happened,
When I was a postdoc, I used to recommend the wire
to my competitors.
I go to sleep fired up, ready and excited
to do whatever it takes.
When I wake up, that drive is depleted.
Why and what can I do?
Have not heard that one before,
but if I were to venture a guess.
You know, we didn’t spend much time tonight
talking about the autonomic nervous system,
this kind of seesaw that takes us from very alert,
potentially panicked, but to very, very deep sleep.
Even, you know, God forbid you go into a coma,
it’s because the parasympathetic nervous system
is overactive relative to the sympathetic nervous system.
It’s a seesaw of autonomic function.
You may be sleeping very, very deeply,
and when you are in deep, deep rest,
the last thing you wanna do is get into
that forward center of mass,
thinking, planning, predicting, right?
In, you know, again, in yoga nidra,
again, non-sleep, deep rest,
there’s this common theme in the script
of going from thinking and doing and predicting
to being and feeling, they say.
And I’m not making fun of them.
As the moment I hear that, I go,
just gonna be and feel.
What are you doing?
You’re actually just moving into sensation,
but no planning, right?
There’s nothing mysterious about it.
Sensation, but no planning.
Now, in sleep, a very deeply parasympathetic sleep state,
You actually, that visual aperture is actually so big,
right, you’re not in panoramic vision,
your eyes are actually closed.
Space and time are from past, present, and future
are invited into your thinking.
You’re in a deep, deep state of relaxation.
And it may be, Dustin, that when you’re waking up,
you’re having a hard time transitioning out of that
because you’re sleeping so deeply.
You may be waking up mid-sleep cycle.
Many people find it useful to set an alarm
so that they wake up at the end of a 90-minute,
so-called ultradian cycle.
There are some sleep apps that do this on the phone.
I can’t recall their names, but.
So rather than sleeping seven hours,
you might be better off sleeping six
or seven and a half hours, right,
waking up at the end of one of these 90-minute cycles.
I would be consistent with what we know about the biology.
But I think it’s common to, if you sleep very deeply,
to wake up and not necessarily wanna spring out of bed.
I’ve heard of these people
that just wanna spring out of bed and attack the day.
Jocko Willink, 4.30 in the morning, his Casio phone.
I have a watch, I’m seeing his watch,
when it’s like eight for me, I’m like,
wow, like again, these people are amazing.
I must be doing something wrong.
But these are, you know, I don’t wake up that way,
you know, like Tigger.
I’m like, I want water, I want sunlight.
90 minutes later, I want caffeine.
What are some of your favorite books
that have had the biggest impact on you?
Kyle, gee, thank you, Kyle.
Gosh, so many.
You know, for nonfiction,
well, Oliver Sacks’ autobiography, On the Move,
had a profound impact on me.
You know, people hated him.
The scientific community tried to kick him out.
They said horrible things about him,
created all sorts of scandals.
It wasn’t until Awakenings became a blockbuster movie
that suddenly he got appointments at NYU and Columbia.
Then now they wanted him back,
and the revered neurologist, like incredible, right?
But he was also a real seeker in the cuttlefish thing,
and he had a lot of internal struggles too,
some of which I relate to, some of which I don’t.
Actually, I’ve been in touch with his former partner
because it actually moved to Topanga Canyon
for a short while just because Oliver lived there.
I thought, if I go there, I’ll actually finish this book.
Just moving someplace doesn’t allow you to finish a book.
He lived in Topanga, so I was like, that’s the key.
It didn’t work.
And people were wondering why I was hanging
around their house all the time,
because it was Oliver’s former home.
So that’s an amazing book.
And tells you my obsessive nature.
The other books that have had a profound influence on me,
I would say in the nonfiction realm,
well, I learned how to make a decent steak
and a few other simple recipes not well
from Tim Ferriss’ book, The Four Hour Chef,
because I really needed help.
That was a fun one.
I like Robert Greene’s book, Mastery,
because I’ve had amazing mentors,
and that book is all about finding mentors
and assigning mentors to you, even if you don’t know them.
And as you can tell from my stories about Oliver,
who I never met, and a few other folks
that I’ve just decided that they don’t know it,
but I’m mentoring them.
They’re mentoring me, excuse me.
That book was really important for me.
And that mentor-mentee relationships
always involve a breakup, either by death
or by decision or by consequence,
your circumstance, rather.
There’s something happens, and they’re supposed
You’re not supposed to apprentice with somebody forever.
That was an interesting book for me.
I would say in the fiction realm,
I would say in the fiction realm,
it’s all childhood books,
because it’s been a long time since I’ve read fiction.
I read a lot of poetry.
I’m a big Wendell Berry fan.
I like poetry because poetry, to me,
is like the subconscious.
The structure is all messed up,
and you think you understand what they’re talking about,
but you don’t really know.
And so it always feels important and consequential,
even though it’s your own interpretation.
And then I love The Psychologist.
I love Jung.
I love Erickson.
I love The Psychologist and could read endlessly
about the early days of attachment theory
and things like that,
because I find that stuff to be fascinating.
So those books have been a lot of fun,
and I love picture books with animals.
And so if you can get a hold
of Joel Sartore’s Instagram account, The Photo Arc,
he decided to take pictures of every animal on the planet,
especially the ones that are endangered.
He’s an amazing photographer,
but his books are even better,
so if you like animal books.
What excites you most about the future research
of mental health treatment,
particularly anxiety and depression?
Michael, thank you, Michael.
Well, there I think that we’re in an exciting time.
I’ll just reveal my biases.
I’m quite pessimistic at the idea
that we’re gonna have better medication soon
for most things.
What I do think we are starting to approach
is a time in which we understand
how broad categories of drugs impact
broad categories of chemicals,
which kind of shift our mind
in broad categories of directions.
What does all that mean?
I think we’re starting to realize
that because there are different receptors
for all these chemicals all over the brain and body,
that that side-effect-less drug
is unlikely to exist for mental health,
but that the combination of maybe some pharmacology,
but especially behavioral tools,
people actually learning how to drive this thing
that we call our nervous system,
is potentially helpful, maybe very helpful.
Now, in cases like schizophrenia, autism,
and I didn’t put those next to one another
for any reason, by the way,
OCD, eating disorders,
and I’m very mindful of the fact that anorexia
is the most lethal of all the psychiatric disorders, right?
Amazing and sad fact.
I think for those conditions,
we are soon going to enter a time
in which it’s going to be combination behavioral,
drug therapy, and yes, brain-machine interface.
I don’t mean putting chips down below the skull.
I think there’s going to be,
and there are things happening now
of people using devices like virtual reality,
as well as transcranial magnetic stimulation,
placing a magnet on a particular location in the head,
combined with a particular maybe drug,
maybe psychedelics, maybe not, to enhance plasticity.
I hear a vote for psychedelics,
and I want to make a serious point about psychedelics.
Five years ago, when I, well, four years ago,
when I started doing a bit of public-facing stuff,
I was absolutely terrified to say that word.
I thought I’d lose my job.
I really did.
I thought, don’t say psychedelics.
And I’ll be very honest, you know,
for me, I think that the clinical data
on MDMA and on psilocybin are very interesting.
I don’t think they are the first and only pass
at rewiring the brain,
but it is clear that the brain can enter a state
of heightened learning capacity,
but it needs to be directed towards something.
The goal of opening plasticity,
just, it opens plasticity.
That’s not the goal.
It’s like running.
The goal isn’t running.
The goal is to run in a particular direction.
So what I think is really needed is to drive
that plasticity in particular directions.
And I would love to see more directed use of those
in, of course, the safe clinical setting
where it’s appropriate.
And a guest on the podcast, Matthew Johnson,
who’s at Johns Hopkins,
I asked him, what’s the deal with microdosing?
And you know what his answer was?
I was very surprised.
He said, macrodose.
And I thought, okay, I’m not a guy who, you know,
I’m not into, I’m not, I’m not a pushing this.
I’m not a proponent.
I said, you’re kidding me.
Why, why would you say this guy runs an NIH funded lab
at Johns Hopkins school of medicine?
And he said,
because the one session with a trained professional
that’s triggering rewiring plasticity that’s guided
as far as they know from the data,
you can go back and listen to these are his words,
not mine, but he’s the expert in this area,
are encouraging plasticity in a particular direction.
And he thinks that that’s far more useful
than just kind of nudging the system a little bit
without any particular goal or outcome.
Very interesting and very surprising.
And again, a trained academic
at one of the most elite institutions in the world.
I think we’re in very exciting times
for those compounds.
And there are studies at Stanford and elsewhere
on ketamine and other things, but it’s early days.
Young people should be very cautious, young, young people.
And adults should be cautious,
especially people with preexisting psychiatric issues
and people who have the propensity for addiction.
Although some of those compounds
are being used to treat addiction.
So I’d be an idiot and I would be lying
if I didn’t say that it is very exciting time
for psychedelic therapies.
Where do you see the biggest area?
And I’ve done only one clinical trial.
I took part in one clinical trial.
So I don’t speak from a lot of experience.
They’re just a little bit.
I was a subject in that trial.
Where do you see the biggest area
for performance enhancement within the elite athletes
and operators that already hit marks
for proper sleep and nutrition?
Meg Young, thanks for your question, Meg.
Yeah, I think that, well, first of all,
very few of them hit marks for proper sleep.
But for those that do,
so once you have your sleep dialed in
and you got your nutrition dialed in
and the motivational component is there,
I think where there’s a lot of work still to be done
and where people can really get outsized effects
is in this weird little cavern of human existence
that we call creativity.
And I didn’t have time to talk about it tonight.
But there’s a very unique brain state
that we call creativity,
which is taking preexisting neural maps
and starting to combine them in unique ways
to create new ways of performance.
Performance can be basically summarized in any domain
as essentially four stages.
You have unskilled, skilled, mastery,
which is when the brain can generate movements
or cognitive computations
that create very predictable outcomes.
And then there’s this fourth tier,
this fourth layer, which is virtuosity.
And virtuosity, by definition,
means inviting back in a component of uncertainty.
What this looks like in terms of operators
or this looks like in terms of athletes,
or even we can say musicians
or people who are in the cognitive fields
or poets or writers,
what it means is introducing that uncertainty
about what’s gonna happen next.
And the way to do that is to destabilize the system.
In other words, to create states of mind
in which there are literally sensory disruptions.
It’s like what I would like to see
is more training in a kind of funhouse
of mirrors type environment.
That’s when you start to see incredible performances emerge.
And virtuosos invite in uncertainty.
They actually don’t know what they’re going to do next.
And so this becomes a little bit of a vague concept.
And what I’m about to tell you next
might seem a little silly,
but one of the best ways to access creative states
is to, no surprise, use your visual system
to view things that are highly unstable and uncertain.
I don’t just love fish tanks.
I love staring at videos of aquariums in Tokyo
and actually watching the fish
because it’s completely unpredictable.
There’s some evidence that doing things like that,
or people will say, oh, I was in the shower.
I took a walk in nature and then I had this idea.
I actually don’t think it was the walk or the shower.
It’s that nature is filled with unpredictable
visual stimuli, auditory stimuli.
When you can predict what’s going to happen next,
you have very little opportunity
to up-level your game, so to speak.
It’s only by way of unpredictable sensory input
that you can do that.
So if you’re a coach or you’re working with people
who are very high-level performers,
do you want them to stand on one leg and spin around
and then do what they’re doing?
What you want to do is try and get them into brain states
that are different than the brain states
that they’re in when they normally enter their practice.
The liminal state between sleep and waking, excuse me,
the liminal state between sleep and waking
is a very powerful one for accessing creativity.
Many people access ideas
as they’re waking up in the morning.
They have great insights.
Other people, while strolling in nature,
I don’t think it’s the strolling or the waking up.
I think it’s the lack of, as we call it,
top-down regulation on rules.
You are able to access combinations of neural maps
that are unusual.
So you can play with this a little bit.
A lot of people throughout history
have used compounds, drugs, to do this, right?
Great writers would get drunk
and then try and write or wake up,
and the amount of self-abuse that people,
including athletes and creatives,
put themselves through to try and capture
these windows of cognitive ability is pretty intense,
and I don’t think that’s a good idea.
I think one should be an explorer
and try and find these cognitive states
in ways that are non-destructive.
I’m starting to sound like my mother with all this.
I’m starting to sound like my mother with all this.
Heelflips on lock, no kickflips.
There’s some skateboarders in the audience,
my first non-biological family.
There’s some amazing skateboarders in this audience,
and I’m not gonna be the one doing a kickflip anytime soon,
but they’re great to have.
One of the reasons we built the podcast
with the help of the great Mike Blayback
is because I learned a long time ago
that if you want things done right
and you wanna do them outside the lane lines
and you wanna have control over how things come across,
you do it with skateboarders,
because I didn’t come from a community
where I didn’t have parents at my sports games
and things like that,
so thanks to the skateboarders and the misfits
and those folks.
Do you have any tips on how to improve memory?
Yes, Ron Vred.
Yes, okay, this is a wild literature, and I love it,
and it’s changing the way that I do things.
I thought that to remember things,
you’re supposed to get really, really excited,
really focused, and remember them,
and guess what, that’s not how you do it.
There are data, and there are stories
going back to medieval times
that they used to teach kids things
and then throw them in the river.
There’s a beautiful annual review of neuroscience
written by the late James McGaugh,
brilliant researcher who taught me that in this review,
and it turns out that if you want to remember something,
you want to spike adrenaline
after you acquired that information, after.
That means the double espresso and the ice bath
after you study for math, immediately after,
and you think about this, you know,
that makes perfect sense, right?
Think about the one trial learning
that nobody wants to experience,
which is a car accident or some traumatic thing.
You didn’t get the spike of adrenaline first,
you got the spike of adrenaline after,
so again, I discourage the use of excessive stimulants
or anything like that,
but if you’re going to try and remember information,
you need to get your brain and body
into a high autonomic arousal state.
Literally, you need to deploy adrenaline into your system
after you have made the attempt to learn some information,
so much so that if you give people a beta blocker
after learning emotional information,
they don’t learn it as well.
Incredible, just incredible data in animals and humans.
This is the beautiful work of Larry Cahill
at UC Irvine and James McGaugh,
so that’s how I would focus on remembering things better,
and it’s also true that if you tell yourself
that something’s really important to you,
you’ll be able to learn it better.
If you meet people and they tell you their name
and you forget two seconds later,
well, you should probably be thinking,
and now I do this, I meet people and I think,
okay, what terrible thing did this person do
just trying to spike my adrenaline or something like that?
It’s a terrible trick,
but I haven’t figured out a better way,
but that’s actually one data-supported way to do that.
Easily a dozen or more studies in humans
on that very topic.
How do you manage social media addiction, Paul?
Well, we should be careful with the use of the word addiction
because here I think it’s entirely appropriate.
When you’re engaging in a behavior
over and over and over again,
and you’re thinking to yourself,
this isn’t even that interesting.
You’re officially addicted.
That’s the litmus test for addiction,
not this feels so good.
People talk about the dopamine hits of social media.
Those only come at the beginning,
but then when you find yourself scrolling,
like, what am I doing?
Maybe it’s that narrow visual aperture,
you’re a hypnotized chicken,
but maybe also you are seeking more dopamine hits
because guess what?
That dopamine wave pool is depleted,
at least for that activity.
It is true that dopamine, you have a baseline,
and then you have peaks that ride on that baseline.
I do think that we can have dopamine for one behavior,
not for another, but it’s a generalized phenomenon.
So how do you manage it?
You have to stop seeking within social media.
And so I’ve taken on the practice of turning off my phone
for a couple hours each day.
It’s incredibly hard.
People get really upset too, by the way,
in case you haven’t noticed.
These tethers that people expect.
We recorded a podcast recently,
so I don’t want to go into too much depth now,
about attachment and grief.
And we all have a map,
now you know understand what the maps are,
of space, time, and a dimension called closeness
to everyone that we know.
Space, where they are, time, when they are,
dead, alive, when will I see them again, et cetera,
And the phone has allowed us to tap into space, time,
and this closeness map,
which define all our attachments on a very regular basis.
So you can understand why it’s so valuable to people.
You know, the plane lands and everyone’s texting.
The plane takes off, everyone’s texting.
It’s like, where are you?
Well, the plane’s in the air,
there’s this thing called flight tracker,
no one cares about that anymore.
You want to hear from the person.
So I do think that,
I used to do an every odd hour of the day,
my phone was off,
and like half the relationships in my life disappeared.
They couldn’t tolerate it.
I loved it, but I loved them too.
So I would say take breaks,
and I would say at least an hour.
And if you find yourself excited to get back on the phone,
that excitement, that is the dopamine system.
So you can kind of learn where it is for you.
But if you find yourself scrolling mindlessly,
and it’s not doing anything for you,
you’re driving that wave pool down, down, down, down, down.
So hopefully that analogy will help.
It’s weird to call myself Dr. Huberman.
In my business, if you refer to yourself
in the third person,
it means you’re officially a narcissist.
So I’m just going to start with,
were you nervous tonight?
And so what did you do to prepare, Brianne?
You saw my nervousness, didn’t you?
No, I asked myself that question.
I was excited, and I think I’m good at lying to myself
and telling myself that autonomic arousal,
that might be nervousness is excitement.
But in truth, I wasn’t,
I was and am really excited to tell you all these stories
and about biology.
I know this might sound like a little bit of a line,
but I actually don’t feel myself as like a person
when I do the podcast or I do this stuff.
I took a walk before I got here,
and I have to be careful,
there are only two topics that make me cry.
One is talking about my bulldog,
the other is talking about my graduate advisor.
So I have to be very careful.
But I took a walk and I imagined that they were here.
And I know, I know, don’t make me cry.
Lex Friedman made me cry on a podcast
and it was really unfair.
And he was like digging and digging.
And there are a few people in the audience
that know Costello and it’s like, you know.
And I just kept thinking to myself before coming in here,
like, you know, I love them and miss them.
And I, Costello would be entirely bored
with this whole thing.
So I distracted myself a bit and not so nervous.
I do get nervous about things.
I’m sure I’m human.
But when it comes to biology,
I think I still feel like that little kid
who just wants to tell you all this stuff, you know.
So, you know, can’t help it.
Is learning from failure equal to learning from success?
Is one more efficient than the other?
Rachel, thanks for your question.
Well, on a trial by trial basis,
we know that when you fail at an attempt,
on the next attempt,
your forebrain is in a position to engage better.
And this makes total sense, right?
You feel that frustration.
And you want to get the next one, right?
Well, you’re harboring, or I should say,
funneling more neural resources.
Your focus, that aperture, tightens.
Now you have to be mindful of that too,
because when you have a failure
and then you’re like, you’re gonna hit the bullseye.
I’m thinking about a dartboard
because I’m terrible at darts.
You know, sober, I’m terrible at darts.
And I don’t even drink.
So that next trial, part of the problem is,
that focus can narrow so much
that you can start to lose access to information
that might help you if you were just to relax a little bit
and dilate that focus a little bit.
But in general, on a trial by trial basis,
focus is the cue that your nervous system
is going to be positioned to learn better on the next trial.
Now, in terms of life experiences,
gosh, I wish for everyone fewer failures and more successes.
But, you know, failures keep you humble.
And I’ve had a lot of them.
I mean, if people ever wanted
and they, you know, I’d be happy to tell you about.
I mean, I’ve made a ton of mistakes in life,
a ton of mistakes.
Some of those were mistakes of persistence,
like dumb decisions.
I kept, like, it’s gonna change, it’s gonna change.
And it’s clearly never gonna change.
And then some were failures of misjudgment
about other people or situations.
And a lot of them were just plain failures,
like the experiment didn’t work
or it just wasn’t the right thing.
And you try and reframe those.
I do think that we owe it to ourselves
and to the people that we know
to try and generate some wins here and there
and try and help other people generate wins.
You know, in running a lab over the years, and I still do,
you realize that you want your students to publish a paper
and feel that success pretty early
so that they can experience, A, how much work it is,
so they pick problems wisely,
but B, so they can feel that, like, oh, I can do this.
And I think that, you know,
this gets into the psychological as well.
I think that, yes, failures help, but successes help.
And there, I think, you know, I function best in a team.
And I think that for those of you
that feel like you’re fighting some challenge alone,
I do think that there are great resources to be had
in trying to access other people as sources of support.
I think that that’s a great tool.
There’s this whole literature, scientific literature,
around social connection
and how that can help us reframe motivation and goals.
Anyway, maybe that’s a topic to expand on another time.
But failure is important on a trial-trial basis.
People who don’t experience enough wins
for a long period of time,
the brain is a prediction machine after all,
and they start to predict failure.
So it takes a bit more work to wedge oneself out of that.
When are you gonna start training jujitsu?
Lex made me ask, Ryan Flores.
Okay, here’s the story with that.
Lex said, do you wanna try jujitsu?
I said, sure.
Lex said, okay, it’ll be great
to show people a beginner’s mind.
I said, sure.
We went and did a jujitsu class.
He was very nice, nice, nice, Russian, nice,
like, oh, yeah, yeah, yeah.
Then he puts it on the internet with me in a rear naked,
him putting me in a rear naked choke.
It was actually Lex Friedman choking out Andrew Huberman.
There, I just talked about myself in the third person.
Edit that one.
I have not had the time for jujitsu.
I like my ears the way they are, you know?
Have you ever seen these people that do jujitsu?
Their ears literally look like stomps.
No, I should do it.
It looks like a great sport.
And unlike the other sports I’ve been involved in
in my life, boxing, please don’t do it.
It’s not healthy.
Skateboarding, all this,
you don’t really damage your head doing jujitsu.
I’m gonna get you back for that one, Lex.
Can you go through, oh, wow, John Edwards.
There’s a joke that my friends used to tell
about the supplements I take.
They used to say,
someone would say, what supplements do you take?
And they would just go, all of them.
I don’t take all of them,
but I have been very systematic.
For about 30 years, I’ve been interested in compounds
that change the nervous system.
And I do think that the events of the last few years
have changed the way that people view supplements.
I think that more people are starting to think about
how to take better care of their health.
And people are realizing that, obviously,
great sleep, mindsets, social connection,
exercise, nutrition, and so forth are very important.
But I actually don’t know anybody,
granted I run with a strange crowd,
but I don’t know anybody
that doesn’t take something nowadays.
You know, I could go through the whole list,
but I would say the most fundamental things,
and there’s no product pitch here,
the most fundamental things are
the things that are going to support
your kind of foundational health.
So, that’s going to mean mainly getting,
either by food sources or supplements,
is gonna be getting sufficient amounts
of these essential fatty acids.
For some people, that’s taking liquid fish oil.
For some people, it’s capsules.
For some people, it’s eating fish.
I don’t like the way fish tastes,
unless I’m in Seattle.
By the way, the seafood here is amazing.
Not so much in California.
So, I think the essential fatty acids,
and then I’m big on the data,
dare I say, out of Stanford,
Justin Sonnenberg’s lab and Chris Gardner’s lab,
that these fermented foods,
of which all these cultures have interesting
fermented foods, kefir and sauerkraut and kimchi,
and pick your fermented food,
that those seem to really encourage
health of the gut microbiome.
So, I started eating a lot of those
and taking no probiotics,
except in a few of the supplements
that I was already taking.
So, I’m not trying to dodge the question,
but I think, by and large,
if you’re eating well
and doing the other foundational behaviors well,
you can get away with a minimum of supplements.
D3, it seems to be a lot of people deficient in D3,
but not everybody.
So, I think those are the main ones, however.
I do think that nutrition should be the primary entry point.
Again, it should be behaviors first,
then nutrition, then supplements,
then prescription drugs, only if you need them.
And then, for some people,
their brain-machine interface,
like TMS and things like that,
are going to be useful.
But behaviors change your nervous system.
No supplement actually rewires you
or changes your nervous system.
Behaviors do that.
I hope I didn’t dodge that question entirely.
I do take some of the things
that we talk about on the podcast
to do some focused work sometimes, alpha GPC.
But lately, I’ve been doing this whole thing
of cold water exposure to spike my adrenaline,
because I hate it,
and it spikes my adrenaline after learning
based on the McGaughan-Cahill data.
What would be your best one or two pieces of advice
to recommend or protocols for improving learning
and retention for graduate students
in science and medicine?
We try to sleep sometimes.
Thank you, JD.
Oh, great, UW, JD.
So, you know, I used to teach this course
at Cold Spring Harbor on career development for scientists.
And there’s a lot in there.
But the two things that are most important
are, for sake of answering this question,
I would say are,
find non-destructive ways
to reset your dopamine and your energy levels
and do those at least every three days.
So for me, it was kind of a tough thing
to take a long walk or to spend,
I used to work really hard on Mondays,
really hard on Tuesdays,
and I would not go in until the afternoon on Wednesdays,
and sometimes not at all.
And then I’d go in Thursday, Friday,
and work really, really hard,
and then not at all on Saturday,
and then maybe do a little bit of work from home on Sunday.
And I was very productive that way.
Those breaks are absolutely key,
and it’s not encouraged so much in academic or tech,
or maybe anything now.
I hear about so much stress and overwork.
I say, you just do it and define the culture
and let the results and your focus be the thing
that defines you, not how many hours you’re in there.
But I realize there’s a huge cognitive load
and energetic load, and for that,
I do think these non-sleep deep rest protocols
are where it comes in really handy.
There are at least two faculty I know at Stanford,
one who’s a so-called Howard Hughes investigator,
those are big deal appointments.
They get tons of money, et cetera, et cetera.
And they do amazing science most of the time.
These individuals certainly do.
And they take two 20-minute naps per day in their office.
When this guy came and visited me years ago
when I was at a different university,
he took the time that we were supposed to meet in my office
and talk about data, he asked if he could take a nap.
And he gave a great talk that afternoon.
So there you go.
I do think you have to take control of your schedule
and do those things, and I hope that helps.
And then, of course, for some people,
exercise and so on is the way they reset.
What research or work are you doing
or that your colleagues are doing
that you’re most excited about lately?
One project in particular,
I hope this paper gets accepted soon.
It’s been out for review forever.
If the viewers are in the audience, please,
just tell us one way or the other, you know?
We did a very large-scale study during the pandemic,
we meaning David Spiegel and I,
and an amazing PhD named Malise Yilmaz Balban.
And Malise, we essentially equipped people
with remote monitoring devices and measured sleep
and heart rate variability and a bunch of stress
and a bunch of other things,
and we gave them a very brief set of breathing protocols.
And it turns out that this thing
that I’m talking about a lot on the podcast these days
of this double inhale-long exhale,
the so-called physiological sigh,
was the most effective breathing practice
for allowing people to control their heart rate variability,
reduce overall heart rate, access better sleep,
and these were extremely short protocols.
So I’m very excited about this.
I didn’t discover physiological sighs.
I love the idea that people can do
a very brief protocol once a day,
maybe even just while walking down the street
or in a moment, and actually learn to control
that autonomic seesaw better.
So I’m very excited about that.
And then we are gearing up to do some studies
on people who have more severe forms of anxiety
and panic attack using mainly respiration,
but also looking at some of these eye-vision-related ways
of controlling the nervous system.
I love that stuff.
If I keep talking about it,
I’m gonna give you a data presentation,
so I’m gonna turn around.
How does dopamine factor into neuroplasticity, if at all?
Colin, great question.
It’s a very strong trigger of plasticity,
so much so, in fact, that there’s some work
that shows if you stimulate with an electrode,
the brain area that releases dopamine,
and you pair that with anything, anything,
even just like an eight-kilohertz tone,
the brain remaps, and it’s like,
oh, I love that eight-kilohertz tone.
Remember, dopamine is dumb, and it’s just dumb,
and it’s just, you know, it’s like Costello
when he said, this dog, I could hang a rope from a tree.
This dog was so lazy, it wouldn’t cross a room for a steak.
You had to give the steak to him,
but it would run across a field.
He would run and jump on and hold onto that rope,
and he would suddenly bite through his lip
with like blood dripping down, and I was like,
oh my God, it was like breaking my heart.
He loved every, that’s dopamine.
It turns us into idiots.
He was smart about what he needed to be smart about.
Dopamine, so if you trigger dopamine release
with Ritalin, Adderall, to a lesser extent,
L-tyrosine, and certainly, please don’t do this,
but cocaine, amphetamine, whatever you’re doing
seems super interesting.
It’s true, and that’s why it’s such a slippery slope.
It makes anything you’re doing
seem interesting and important,
and actually, I’ll use this as an opportunity
to say something about the psychedelic thing earlier.
One of the issues with MDMA,
it’s a very unusual brain state.
It’s high dopamine, high serotonin,
completely synthetic compound.
There are other things in there that it does as well.
One of the problems with people I see
with the problem with people taking MDMA
just at a basic level is that if you’re not pushing that
towards some therapeutic outcome, music sounds amazing.
Everything feels and sounds amazing,
but it’s a very neurochemically severe state,
so that’s why I think if people are going
to explore those things, do it as part
of one of the university-supported clinical trials.
Those drugs make everything seem interesting,
even stuff that’s not terribly interesting.
Now, they also have the potential
for trauma healing capacity.
These are the MAP studies and so on,
so you have to be very careful
with what you pair with dopamine
and what you pair dopamine with,
and for those of you that are high sensation-seeking,
novelty-seeking, and everything’s interesting to you,
and you want more and more and more experiences,
you basically have a eight-cylinder car in you,
and you need to be very careful how you drive that thing.
Like any high-performance automobile,
it’s going to spend more time in the shop,
so learn to drive appropriately.
What advice can you offer to future scientists
who want to make an impact like you have?
Ryan O’Boyle, get tenure first.
No, I’m kidding.
So I have this weird history in science,
and I’m not looking for sympathy here,
but my undergraduate advisor, who I adored,
he’s like a father to me, my graduate advisor,
and my post-doc advisor, who I also adored,
all three of them died.
Suicide, cancer, cancer.
So the joke in my field is,
you don’t want me to work for you.
But in all seriousness,
all three of them had a really morbid sense of humor,
all amazing people,
but it is this kind of weird curse that I’ve had.
So what scientists, you know, what advice, you know,
well, Ben Barris, the late Ben Barris,
died of pancreatic cancer, an amazing individual.
They’re actually making a documentary about Ben’s life.
He was transgendered, he was totally irreverent,
he said whatever he thought, he offended everybody,
he was awesome.
Ben and I had a conversation as he was dying.
I recorded a lot of conversations with him,
and I told him I was interested
in doing public-facing education,
and he said, well, you’re tenured now,
and people are gonna be upset,
and they’re not gonna like it,
and your colleagues are probably gonna hate it,
so whatever you do, you better make it good.
And I was like, wow, that doesn’t really help much, Ben.
And he said, you know, you seem to have a compulsion for it.
So he was right.
I think that if you are excited about science,
and sharing what you know, then do that.
And even if it seems super nerdy,
I mean, there are these, I think they call themselves
entomologists, the insect people?
I mean, they make insects seem really, really cool.
And if you are excited about spindle kinetics, or whatever,
you know, tell people about it.
I really mean it.
I think that the one caveat is that
I do think it’s important to get
a formal, rigorous training in at first.
I think that you will go further and faster
in the long run.
And there’s some amazing people out there.
There’s a postdoc at Stanford, I think his name is Ben Reen.
I think if you shorten it up on Instagram,
it’s actually Brain, Brain,
because he talks about brain science.
So that’s why it’s weird, B-R-E-I-N.
He does a great job, and he’s a really good example
of someone who’s still on the ascent with his career,
doing serious science and doing science communication.
But you have to be careful.
Look, people will dislike you for whatever.
I made the mistake once of saying that I eat butter.
Apparently, that’s a sin on the internet.
I like little bits of butter.
I actually like a lot of butter,
but I try and eat little bits of butter.
But somehow, it’s like there’s this idea
that I eat sticks of butter.
So you have to be careful.
I mean, of the things I’ve heard,
I heard I was dead.
That was cool.
So you have to be careful.
And remember, everything is stamped into the cloud now,
and the metaverse, or whatever it’s called.
So I would say, here are the rules that we have.
At the podcast, and on,
here’s the rules that I created for myself.
I truly don’t do it for me.
I do it because I think people want to hear about it.
But I’ve been telling myself that since I was six years old.
The other thing is, never, ever, ever do it
just for your own gratification.
You should really try and think,
is anyone gonna get anything useful out of this,
That’s the goal.
If you’re doing that, it’ll work out for you.
If you are thinking about how to get followers
or something like that, it ain’t gonna work out.
That’s my advice.
Is age 66 too old for neuroplasty?
No, I’ll cut myself off.
To begin learning, Sandra Tresari.
Did I pronounce that right?
Thank you, Sandra.
Richard Feynman, the great Richard Feynman,
taught himself to draw later in life.
He was also really into flotation tanks.
Did you know that?
Yeah, he was also into bongo drumming naked
on the roof of Caltech.
Richard Feynman did so many things
that would get most people fired nowadays.
He’s just lucky he was alive when he was.
You can absolutely learn at 66 and way beyond.
There’s an amazing study from Rusty Gage’s lab
at the Salk Institute years ago
showing that even people who are very late in life,
terminally ill, in fact, are still producing new neurons
in the dentate gyrus of the hippocampus.
These people were gracious enough
to allow researchers to inject them with dyes
that would label these neurons for analysis post-mortem
after they died.
Absolutely, you can learn.
What’s harder is focus.
Oftentimes, what’s harder is sleep as well,
but the same mechanisms apply.
There’s no evidence whatsoever
that neuroplasticity disappears at any stage,
despite what Hubel and Wiesel told the BBC.
How do you tackle reading research papers?
Do you have a specific strategy, Anne Hunt?
Yes, I do.
I take notes on everything.
There’s four questions that we teach students
and that I think that I use.
The first one is, what’s the question they’re asking,
major and more specific?
Second is, what do they do, methods-wise, what do they do?
You don’t have to know all the details
in the methods necessarily,
but be versed in those methods.
You have to understand, are they looking at mice?
Are they looking at humans?
Did they have people in two different conditions
or just one?
You have to understand, what do they do?
Then you ask, what did they find?
The last question is the most important one.
You should write down the answer to this
is, what did they conclude?
Then you look back at the first question
and you go, did they actually answer that question
or is it something unrelated?
Those four questions are essentially
the way that I parse each paper.
Learning to parse papers is tricky.
For the podcast, I use the telephone.
I call people and I badger them and I ask them,
who’s doing the really good work in this area?
I spend a lot of hours doing it.
Then the best way to remember science
is to tell someone about it.
Before each podcast, I’ll call someone and be like,
hey, did you know that they used to throw kids in the river?
I do this and my sister, my poor sister,
and she’s like, yeah.
My sister, by the way, does not watch the podcast.
She’s a therapist and she’s like,
hey, I learned this amazing breathing technique.
I was like, oh yeah, really?
Tell me about it.
It’s like someone else is there.
I’m like, you know I have a podcast.
She’s like, I don’t like your podcast.
Yeah, it’s older sister.
She’s not lying.
What is your favorite sauce, condiment, seasoning, sauce?
There’s one in every audience.
I like the spicy stuff.
We’ve been fermenting our own food at home.
It’s kind of cool.
You put the cabbage and the stuff
in the little ceramic thing outside
and then it goes pop, pop.
It makes this amazing sound
and then you can make your own sauerkraut.
You can do that with peppers
and fermenting that stuff.
It’s really good.
Okay, they’re telling me one more question,
so we’ll do two.
What’s most important from your ADH?
A lot of questions about ADHD.
For people on medication or not on medication?
So I’ll answer both.
For people on medication,
I think work with somebody really good
who’s willing to work with you
to allow you to find that minimal effective dose
and also timing that dose.
One of the key things that we know now
is that from that waking up point in your morning
until about eight or nine hours later,
we’ve sort of named that phase one of the day
for lack of a better naming protocol.
The systems that release cortisol, dopamine,
and epinephrine are essentially more effective
at producing those than they are
in the later periods of the day,
which makes sense if you think about
the way that the autonomic nervous system works, et cetera.
So there’s an important question
that I can’t answer for you but you can answer for you,
which is if you’re using Ritalin, Adderall, Vyvanse,
these things that enhance dopaminergic transmission,
By the way, for the people in the audience like me
who didn’t go to college when these things were all in use,
the numbers of people that use these compounds
on and off prescription is astronomical.
I didn’t realize it.
I think something like 80% of college students
use these at some point.
Incredible, because they put you into
a narrow aperture tunnel of concentration.
So you want to, with a physician’s support, of course,
to help get permission or not,
to figure out what time of day to take your medication.
Now, for people who are not on medication,
I’ll just go right back to what I said earlier,
which is that you can train focus,
but it feels terrible to train it.
It is hard.
Again, there are these large-scale studies in China
and elsewhere of people literally teaching themselves,
and yes, they blink, although less often,
to focus their vision on a narrow aperture
and to really battle through that agitation,
stress, and learn how to keep their focus.
Now, focus will drift, right?
Focus is not a constant.
Focus will drift, and you pop out of focus states
and then refocus and pop out and refocus.
That’s something that you can train up.
I’ve heard from many people who’ve managed
to train themselves off medication
or to lower doses of medication,
and look, some people can’t do that.
They absolutely have to maintain
their standard medication protocols.
This is a larger discussion, obviously,
as it relates to ADHD.
We’re gonna do another episode on ADHD
because the data are coming out so, so fast.
What future episodes are in the pipeline, David Nguyen?
Okay, thank you for that question.
We have one on grief.
We have an amazing episode with a guy
from the Rockefeller University on the,
this is, am I allowed to say
it’s gonna be my favorite episode?
I love all the guests, but this episode
just blew me away on the relationship
between language, speech, dance, and music,
and I have no musical talent
and I’m not a very good dancer, so,
and that’s being generous.
Amazing interplay between those things.
Exercise in the brain, OCD, bulimia, binge eating disorder.
Peter Attia’s coming on.
He’ll teach us about everything,
medicine and longevity,
and I’m kind of blanking at the moment.
David Anderson from Caltech
on aggression and emotional states.
Amazing, and then there are a number of people,
Lisa Feldman Barrett, or Barrett Feldman,
I always get it backwards, sorry Lisa,
on emotions in the brain,
and really we do take suggestions
about who to bring on the podcast very seriously.
What we’re mostly looking for,
what we’re mostly looking for are the people
that no one else has heard,
that people haven’t heard of,
who are not going on podcasts every week,
and that people should absolutely hear from,
and then I will tell you,
they’re gonna kill me for saying this,
but I’m gonna do it anyway.
We have some short series coming up
with expert professionals.
I’m gonna do a short series on trauma,
and my hope for this series is that
you’ll actually get to see an exquisitely skilled
trauma therapist take someone through,
excuse me, I seem so excited, I’m spitting on the audience.
Excuse me, to take someone through actual trauma therapy,
this isn’t staged, this is somebody who’s actually
in a point of near suicidal grief and trauma,
taking them through it in the course of the podcast
so that people can see what this process actually entails.
That’s a very meaningful project to me
for a number of reasons,
so we’re really excited about that,
and to be honest, I feel like there’s just
such a treasure trove of information out there,
I just wanna grab it all and tell you all about it until,
I always say, if nothing else, I’ll cure insomnia.
Thank you, appreciate it.
Thank you so much for your time.
I really appreciate everyone coming out on the weekday
and I’d be remiss if I didn’t say
thank you for your interest in science.