Huberman Lab - LIVE EVENT Q&A: Dr. Andrew Huberman Question & Answer in Los Angeles, CA

Welcome to the Huberman Lab Podcast,

where we discuss science

and science-based tools for everyday life.

Recently, the Huberman Lab Podcast hosted a live event

at the Wiltern Theater in Los Angeles.

It was entitled the Brain-Body Contract.

The first part of the evening was a lecture

about science and science-based tools

for mental health, physical health, and performance.

The second half was a question and answer period

in which the audience asked me questions from the podcast

or related to their own interests

or things that they’ve gleaned from social media

or just general questions about mental health,

physical health, and performance.

And I answered those questions for them.

We wanted to make the recorded version

of that question and answer session available to everybody,

regardless of who could attend.

So what follows is the question and answer period

from the Wiltern Theater Brain-Body Contract

live Huberman Lab event.

Want to be sure to thank the sponsors from that event.

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And now without further ado,

the question and answer period

from the Huberman Lab live event in Los Angeles.

[“The Daily Show with Dr. Z”]

[“The Daily Show with Dr. Z”]

What occurs in the mind body when you have ADHD?

Are there ways to address it without medication?

Thank you for this question.

So attention deficit hyperactivity disorder

used to be called ADD.

The hyperactivity part is a little misleading.

And again, I’m not a clinician here.

Here’s what we know works for some people,

and yet there are always going to be side effects

of any kind of chemical manipulation,

which is that we know that people,

kids and adults with ADHD,

actually have a tremendous capacity to focus

if they like what they’re focusing on.

You take a kid with ADHD who can’t focus

and you give them their favorite video game

and they are a laser.

The threshold to access the dopamine system is higher.

And dopamine has this incredible ability

to focus the brain and other aspects of the nervous system.

Certainly if people require medication,

I’m not going to tell you to stop taking that medication.

But the focus training exercises

that have been explored mainly in China,

but they’re starting to be explored over here as well,

do seem to be of benefit.

And these are, as they sound,

they use them in schools in China now,

which are literally visual focus exercises.

Your mental focus,

that is your ability to focus on things cognitively,

follows your visual focus.

And of course, your stress will anchor your,

essentially put you in a soda straw view of the world.

So yes, there are non-medication-based treatments.

By medication, I’m assuming you mean prescription medication.

There are, of course, supplement-based medications

that will increase dopamine, mainly L-tyrosine.

Again, this is something to think carefully about

before you start tampering with your dopamine system.

The L-tyrosine is the precursor to dopamine,

so it will raise your dopamine levels.

But I believe, and you’ll hear me say this

as many times as necessary,

that one should, if you can,

rely on behavioral tools first.

Then, of course, sleep and nutrition are prerequisite,

again, for all mental health, physical health performance.

You simply can’t neglect those.

And then, and only then, if all of that isn’t working,

to rely on supplement-based tools

or on prescription medication.

So it’s clear that Vyvanse, Adderall, Ritalin, et cetera,

work for ADHD, but some people choose to rely

on more subtle forms of pharmacologic manipulation

like L-tyrosine.

And this focusing exercise essentially consists

of spending one to three minutes

trying to maintain visual focus.

And yes, you are allowed to blink.

I don’t know why we tend to stare

at something we don’t blink,

but don’t let your eyes dry out.

And that can increase your ability

to focus cognitively, and it works.

And keep in mind that focusing always involves refocusing.

We covered a beautiful data set,

not collected by my lab,

by Wendy Suzuki’s lab at NYU,

that at roughly 10 minute,

it’s actually 13 minute a day meditation of the sort

where you just focus on your breathing,

has been shown to improve focus significantly.

Why don’t we hear about this more?

Well, she’s now Dean of Arts and Sciences at NYU,

and all the students are hearing about it.

Hopefully they’re doing it,

but it takes a little bit of discipline.

For some reason, 10 minute a day type meditation

is something that very few people follow consistently.

But if you’re looking for non-medication based treatments

for ADHD, or you’re somebody who just struggles with focus,

the focusing exercise or the meditation I just described

can be very useful.

So say the data.

Yeah, thanks for bringing up space-time bridging.

Are people familiar with what space-time bridging is?

I haven’t talked a lot about it.

Okay, thanks for bringing that up.

We actually have an episode on meditation

coming up soon where I cover it.

And I talked about it long ago,

and then I kind of abandoned it

because, well, we wanted more data.

And it’s a pretty interesting technique.

You know, if you think about the nervous system

and vision in particular,

but if you’re not a sighted person,

you’re low vision or no vision,

you could do this with your hearing.

But I’m gonna assume most people here are sighted.

If not, just translate this to the auditory system.

You have this incredible ability to close your eyes

and focus, for instance, on,

people talk about the third eye center,

you know, focusing right behind your forehead.

Do you know why people do that when they meditate?

The reason is that you actually have no sensation

in your brain.

It’s the one place to focus your attention

for which you abandon sensation.


If I think about any portion of my body or my breathing,

I’m either, I’m going to sense what’s happening.

I’m going to perceive my inner landscape,

so-called interoception,

or my outer, if I look out into the world,

it’s exteroception.

When you focus your attention with your eyes closed,

just, you do have to close your eyes

just behind your forehead,

you are focusing on your thinking.


Sort of obvious, but I don’t,

at least to me, it had never been stated that clearly.

Again, one of the problems

with some of the more traditional practices,

but also the problem with science,

is that there’s a shrouding of everything

in very complex language, which sucks.

Why does it suck?

Because it’s a separator.

You eliminate the number of people

that could be brought to potentially useful practices.

And I don’t like it when people, including myself,

overuse mechanism and descriptions of, you know,

fancy phrases to mask basic principles.

So simplest language, I think is a,

it tends to unify people around the practices.

So when you focus on this so-called third eye center,

right, or a spot right behind your forehead,

or on your breath,

it’s a little tricky with the breath,

but when you focus on your frontal cortex,

there’s nothing to sense,

because there’s no sensory neurons there.

There’s no touch, there’s no pain, nothing.

That’s why in these gory movies, you know,

you can take the skull off,

or in neurosurgeries, they’re poking around in there,

and the person’s playing a violin.

Like no anesthetic, no anesthetic,

doesn’t require anesthetic, there’s no sensory neurons.

Can’t sense anything there.

So space-time bridging involves,

it’s essentially a meditation,

but it’s really a perceptual exercise.

I think that’s where we’re going with this,

is it starts by closing your eyes

and focusing on that location

for which there’s no sensation,

there’s only thought,

and then opening your eyes and focusing on a location,

maybe about the distance of your hand,

and you focus also on your breathing.

So you sort of imagine a kind of a tether between that.

You can split your attention to these two locations.

You’re thinking about your body,

and you’re thinking about a location outside of you,

and then you, while continuing to think about your body,

so-called interoception, focused on your breathing,

you focus further out, and then further out,

and then further out,

and then ultimately, you know that little cartoon

or meme where they’re like,

we’re just a little blue dot floating in a big universe,

and it’s supposed to make all your problems go away?

It kind of works because what you’ve done

is you’ve expanded your perception,

and you go, oh yeah, the stuff that’s happening in here

is really important when I’m focused

on what’s happening in here,

but when I’m focused on what’s going on

and the vastness of all this,

and we’re just a little pale blue dot and all that,

it changes your perception,

not just your visual perception, obviously.

Changing your visual perception

changes your cognitive perception,

which changes your emotional experience.

So the space-time bridging is a perceptual exercise

where you step from focusing internally

to focusing externally at a short distance,

then a further distance, further distance, further distance,

and then trying to imagine yourself

in this larger landscape.

It sounds very mystical,

but it’s actually very neurobiological,

and it captures something really amazing.

Why is the T in there, the time, space-time bridging?

Because this is space, but time is in there

because when you focus in close,

your slicing of time is finer.

You notice the subtle fluctuations in your breathing

and things that are happening up close,

whereas when you focus further out,

your perception of time actually changes,

which is why in panoramic vision we are calm.

And when you think about we’re just a pale blue dot

and we mostly only live to about 85 or maybe 100 years old,

what’s happening right now,

my boss being a jerk and all that doesn’t really matter

because the earth is spinning and all that kind of stuff,

which is all true and is the stuff of philosophy

and mindfulness and I think is beautiful.

What you’re really doing

is you’re changing your time perception

by changing your space perception.

So space-time bridging is very useful

because most people get locked at one step,

one of these stations,

especially under conditions of stress.

And people who have trouble focusing,

I’m glad you brought this up in this context of ADHD,

people who have a hard time focusing

whether or not they have ADHD or not

tend to skip back and forth

between different space-time domains

as we call them in science.

So this is a simple exercise that you can do

focusing internally, then stepping out externally,

then stepping back in,

all the while paying attention to your inner landscape

just simply by focusing on your breathing.

It’s a tool that we’re still collecting data on

in terms of its utility, but people are already using it.

And I don’t think of it as a meditation,

I think of it as a perceptual exercise.

Thanks for asking that.

Okay, as a teenager, what are five things

you would recommend to physically feel my best?

I’m a 15-year-old surfer

who attends high school and plays soccer.

It sounds like you’re doing a lot of things right.

To physically feel your best.

Okay, so I’m gonna grasp at some context here

that I’m not, that’s not within reach.

I’m assuming if you are doing all these things,

you’re hopefully doing a bunch of other things too,

and they’re going to be demands on you

that you, probably some of them you don’t wanna do,

school and things like that,

are going to have varying levels of joy and delight

and demand of things you don’t want to do.

I don’t wanna default always to the simplest of tools,

but I certainly think that even as a 15-year-old,

if you’re not already getting lots and lots of sleep,

that’s going to be great.

Tell your parents that I said

you should get lots and lots of sleep,

while you’re not sleeping through classes.

I am a professor after all.

I couldn’t tell you otherwise.

You know, I would say if I could travel back in time

as a 15-year-old, I would encourage you

to cultivate some sort of mindfulness practice.

I know this sounds a little cliche,

but having some awareness of your thinking

about your thinking is good,

but I’m actually not going to say sit down

and meditate for 10 minutes a day or do NSDR.

I’m actually not gonna tell you that.

I think given how plastic your brain is,

how much it’s changing at 15,

I would encourage you,

and maybe you would set a timer for this,

to actually develop just a really keen awareness

of what stresses you out, what relaxes you,

what delights you, et cetera,

and just to simply develop an awareness of that,

because those are your antennae.

And I certainly had a meditation practice as a youth,

mostly given to me because I was a little haywire

and I needed it, and it worked pretty well.

But I think in retrospect,

what I wish I had developed was more of a sense

of how I navigated stress or things,

and things I enjoyed and things I didn’t enjoy.

And I would just encourage you to have a general awareness,

try and detect and learn about what raises your adrenaline,

what raises your dopamine, what raises your serotonin,

and then start thinking about tools.

But again, the awareness is going to be very valuable.

And gosh, as a 15-year-old,

you are in this amazing blessed period

of heightened neuroplasticity.

Should we all be so lucky?

So enjoy it.

Next question, please.

Clarity on adrenaline regarding cold water.

Should we wait to feel the rise of adrenaline

that get me out of here feeling,

and the fall of it before bailing?

Yes, provided it doesn’t kill you.

You know, I don’t wanna say cold water,

it’s hard to kill yourself with cold water,

provided your head’s above and you’re breathing.

But it’s, sorry, my podcast producer’s always like,

I can’t help that, anyway.

It’s a great tool.

And different days, it’ll feel different.

So for instance, doing cold,

any kind of adrenaline and deliberate cold exposure

or adrenaline increasing activity early in the day,

you might find that you are more,

quote unquote, resilient than later.

In other words, the wall, like,

I really don’t wanna do this.

This is actually interesting for,

I think it extends beyond cold water.

Let’s say you really don’t wanna do something.

Pay attention to the fact

that maybe it’s not the right thing to do.

But assuming it’s something that you know you should do,

but you don’t want to do,

you are already in the first wall of adrenaline.

You don’t experience it necessarily

as heightened levels of stress.

You might experience it as heightened levels of fatigue

or a hard time shifting on that kind of activation state

that’s required to move through the thing.

But I do encourage you to take advantage of that.

Of course, and we have an episode coming out tomorrow,

actually, that answers questions like,

should you train if you’re sick?

And what if you travel?

And there’s context always.

But I think that you do want to experience,

if you wanna get the most out of the cold water exposure,

and to be more specific, the adrenaline,

then you want to get to that point of,

I really wanna get out of here,

but I know I can stay in safely,

but I really wanna get out of here.

And it’s a little hard to explain,

but there’s just so much learning in those short moments

about where your mind goes.

And this sounds very kind of, again, subjective

and maybe a little wishy-washy,

but you can realize great things about yourself

in those moments.

You can find insight in those moments.

Also keep in mind that the degree of discomfort,

not just physical, but mental discomfort,

is directly predictive of the pain to pleasure wave

that you’ll experience afterwards.

The reason it feels so good

when you get out of the ice bath and you’re showered off,

I always do the warm shower after,

I don’t do this end on cold thing.

I don’t know, it just seems a little too painful.

And then take a warm shower and then you feel great.

And that’s the surge of dopamine that we know,

based on a paper published

in the European Journal of Physiology,

lasts many hours and it’s a 100 to 200% increase in dopamine.

It is not a subtle effect.

And then people say, well, wait,

is that dopamine gonna crash my dopamine system?

No, because it’s a nice slow rise.

In fact, I’m actually not aware of many things

besides love and delight

that can create this long, slow arc of dopamine

lasting many hours.

Maybe you’re aware of other things.

If you are, let me know.

But it turns out that long arc is a true antidepressant.

And my colleague at Stanford, Dr. Anna Lembke,

who’s a head of our Dual Diagnosis Addiction Clinic,

has talked about in her amazing book,

Dopamine Nation, about patients of hers

that have really helped themselves along

and out of the more depressive phases

of working through addiction

and in just depression in general

through directed cold water therapy.

So I’m obviously a fanatic about it

in the sense that it’s a powerful,

relatively safe, if done properly,

safe, if done properly,

way to modulate your internal dopamine.

Hopefully I answered your question.

Next question, please.

Sorry, I caught it right as it went off.

The fall as well.

Yes, I think you should get out

once you’ve accomplished something.

Don’t get out when you panic, unless it’s dangerous.


How can you train your brain

to feel more confident in moments

where you tend to feel intimidated?

Ah, okay.

These are hard questions.

Because context is tricky here,

because I don’t know what the context is.

And confidence on short time scales

and then long time scales.

So confidence in school, confidence in career,

those are long, long arc things,

whereas confidence to be able to do something

in the short term is different.

But remember those action sequences

that trigger the release of dopamine.

Dopamine, I’ve mainly talked about

the dark side of dopamine,

but I hopefully also talked about

the sort of upward spiral that dopamine can cause,

mainly by thinking about delight

and things that you really enjoy.

That carries over.

And I would say that you want to micro-slice

the demands of what’s maybe got you back

on your heels a bit.

Actually, a good friend of mine who’s here tonight,

I think also, my friend Pat,

he has a great way of conceptualizing this,

which is for most all endeavors,

we either feel back on our heels, flat-footed,

or forward center of mass.

Like we can really do something.

We’re flat-footed, we’re back on our heels.

And sometimes getting from back on our heels,

let’s call that lack of confidence

to just on two feet and confident enough

to move forward or at least stay in the game.

That’s going to require,

you could lean on different tools.

I can’t say which would be ideal

for the circumstance you have in mind,

but I do think that having a way to calm yourself

will give you access to more resources,

internal resources.

We know this.

This was something I meant to bring up

during the discussion about fear versus love, et cetera,

trying to access delight and love.

When we are in a state of fear or stress or anxiety,

the rule set, the options available to us,

and indeed our creativity, is greatly diminished.

And this has to do with the way

that the prefrontal cortex interacts

with an area of the brain called the insula,

which relates to our internal landscape.

And there’s this weird phenomenon,

which is that normally our brain, our thinking brain,

and our rule-setting brain,

it leads the brain parts that control

and pay attention to how we feel internally.

And that’s why, for instance, if you feel a little nervous,

you can still do something.

At some point, you get stressed enough,

and we know this from work by my colleague, David Spiegel,

it reverses, and these areas of the brain

that are paying attention, like how flushed my face is

or whether or not I’m sweating or am I breathing,

actually start to shut down creative decision-making.

So I would say the way to have more confidence

is to learn to control that stress

and keep the part of your brain,

the prefrontal cortex is that part,

that can come up with new rules that can be funny,

that can be creative, that keeps that brain part leading.

The way I think about this is the prefrontal cortex

is sort of like the coach,

and the rest of your brain are sort of like the players.

And if you get too stressed,

the players start to lead the game,

and the coach follows and kind of drags them along.

So I would encourage you to focus

on real-time stress modulation

and to raise your stress threshold

using the sorts of tools we talked about,

and to register your wins.

I didn’t get into this in too much detail,

but one of the amazing things about the dopamine system

is that it’s highly subject to your interpretation.

If you tell yourself that a fail was a win,

and you can see or conceptualize some way

in which that’s actually true,

you get to tap into the dopamine system.

You might think that’s crazy.

You can cheat your own brain.

You can cheat your own neurochemistry, and indeed you can.

You can change the time, space-time referencing.

We see this with examples

like Nelson Mandela or Viktor Frankl.

You know, you read their stories, right?

Trapped in little cells, right?

Confined, imprisoned.

And they come up with new ways to access the dopamine system

by now not thinking about what they’re not getting,

but thinking about what they can control

in their immediate experience.

Many, many examples of this

throughout literature and history.

And the dopamine system is the life force system.

I don’t say that in any loose way.

Dopamine is life force.

It’s the wish and the desire to continue.

It’s persistence.

And so if you can think about

what might seem like a failure

and really spend some time thinking about

not the potential wins on the outside,

but how you can conceptualize

that as a potential win internally,

you really do get to achieve an internal chemical win.

And that chemical win sets you up for more real wins,

if that makes sense.

It’s incredible how contextualized the dopamine system is,

but if it weren’t, why would it matter

if we’re talking about money or mates or food

or job or school?

You don’t get 50 reward systems and motivation systems.

You get one, and that’s the dopamine system.

Next question, please.

What is the competing mechanism

behind bilateral eye movement, EMDR,

that helps resolve psychological trauma?

The competing mechanism.

Well, let me try and answer as best I can.

I’m not sure I understand the full extent of the question,

but let me, EMDR, moving your eyes from side to side,

right, and then recounting a trauma is a very common

and actually one of the four approved treatments

that are behavioral for trauma.

So it’s taken seriously in the psychiatric

and psychological community for good reason.

It tends to work best for single event traumas

as opposed to like entire childhoods.

No joke there, like, you know,

some people have their entire childhood was traumatic.

Other people, they experience a trauma,

a single event trauma or repeated periods

of the same or similar type of trauma.

Eye movements from side to side have been shown

in a number of studies to very potently reduce

the activity of a brain structure called the amygdala,

which most people are familiar with

because of the character from the Star Wars movie,


There’s a neuroscientist somewhere on that team.

It is indeed a threat detection center.

And when you move through space, not outer space,

but when you walk like this,

your eyes actually generate these subtle side to side shifts

unless you’re focusing on a specific target.

And my lab and other laboratories have found

that that leads to a very potent quieting

of the threat detection system.

And then EMDR is essentially a process of pairing

that calmer state with no threat detection system

activated with the recount of something

that normally would be quite triggering.

So it’s, you’ve heard of Pavlovian conditioning,

like a bell rings and the animal gets fed

and animal salivates,

eventually just the bell will evoke the salivation.

You’re doing the reverse of that.

It’s called behavioral desensitization.

It has an underlying mechanism, et cetera.

But the idea is to pair a calm state

with recount of something.

It has been shown to be successful.

There are people who think

that the side to side eye movements

and the recount of trauma may actually be invoking

some form of hypnosis.

My colleague, David Spiegel, expert in clinical hypnosis.

He’s appeared on my podcast, Rich Roll’s podcast

and a few other podcasts and talks about this.

It is not stage hypnosis, it’s clinical hypnosis.

So there may be something going on there.

EMDR, again, some people get great relief from it.

Other people don’t.

What’s kind of nice is that this eye movements

from side to side or simply taking a walk,

as long as you’re not looking at your phone

and not allowing your eyes to move from side to side

is a very good way to shut down the fear and stress system.

So taking a walk, I think is relaxing for obvious reasons.

And there are data showing that part of the reason

why animals scratch at the door and wanna go for a walk

may not actually be the exercise.

There’s kind of an anxiety

and then an anxiety relief that occurs.

Of course, they probably have to go to the bathroom too.

One of Costello’s great joys in life

was just peeing on everything.

Outdoors, thankfully.

So the psychological trauma rewiring,

unfortunately, there haven’t been

a lot of brain imaging studies

looking at this long-term of how well EMDR works.

What I think is going to happen in the next few years,

by the way, is it is not going to be a discussion around,

should you do EMDR?

Should you do transcranial magnetic stimulation?

Should you do behavioral therapy?

It’s going to be combination therapies,

combination therapies,

including pharmacologic manipulations

to essentially give a boost to the systems

that encourage neuroplasticity,

like dopamine and serotonin and adrenaline,

and then also then perform EMDR.

And if you wanna talk about what’s happening

in the landscape of clinical trials

on some of the psychedelics, I’m happy to talk about it.

They’re still illegal,

but they are being used in clinical trials

and very interesting stuff is happening there.

Okay, next question, please.

What new research or interventions

are you most excited about

in the realm of health and wellness?

So what I think is going to be very interesting

in the next few years really reflects my obsession

that you’ve seen a little bit of tonight,

but the thing that I think is going to be most useful,

and I’ve seen this in science before,

and I think we’re going to see it in health and wellness,

is that there are all these tools and all these people,

and he’s saying this and she’s saying that,

and what we’re going to start paying attention to

is what are the common themes, right?

And a broader and more important theme

is going to be one of modulation versus mediation.

What do I mean?

Well, if someone were to pull a fire alarm right now,

and please don’t, that will shift our attention

and make it hard to focus on what I’m saying

and knowing me, I’d probably just stay up here talking.

Do we think that fire alarms mediate attention?

No, they modulate it, right?

If it were very, very cold in this room

like it was when we first got here tonight,

the Arctic cold, hopefully it’s warmed up a bit.

It hasn’t, I’m so sorry, so sorry.

Yeah, I attempted to, yeah.

I almost thought maybe we all just do a bunch of breathing

to heat up like adrenaline release,

but these days getting groups of people

all breathe on each other is not exactly,

I can see that might go the wrong way

in terms of what people interpret.

So the idea here is that certain things

directly mediate something,

like a physiological side directly calms you down quickly.

It mediates the calming response.

Getting good sleep makes you less easily triggered.

It modulates stress.

But is sleeping directly mediating stress control?

No, and I think this is really important

and this brings up the topic of the gut brain axis.

The gut is rich with these little bugs,

bacteria, trillions of them,

which is an eerie thought to me,

but also the surface of your skin,

the surface of your eyes,

you have a skin microbiome, a nasal microbiome,

every mucosal lining has a microbiome.

In fact, think about this.

This is a crazy but worthwhile tangent.

Have you ever bitten the inside of your mouth?

It sucks, right?

And you get a cut and it hurts.

But guess what?

The inside of your mouth heals without a scar.

Think about that.

Weird, right?

You cut anywhere else on your body

and depending on how well you heal

and your age and your immune status,

you get a scar.

Your mouth is filled with bacteria

and it’s open to the world.

But the gut microbiome, provided it’s healthy,

provides an incredible ability to heal quickly.

And, you know, I’m not somebody

who’s done a lot of acupuncture.

I’ve went a few times

and now there’s interesting science

happening on acupuncture,

but what’s the first thing they do

when you walk in there?

And then they go, oh yeah.

And they have this cool intuition

that’s not based on Western mechanistic science.

It’s more of an intuition based on millions,

if not billions of data points

that have been put into these charts.

It’s pretty cool, right?

And what they are looking at, I believe,

and from what my colleagues who work on microbiome

tell me is they can look at the pallor of your tongue,

in particular, in the back

and get a sense of whether or not

the microbiome there is of the appropriate stuff.

But they don’t go, oh, lactobacillus,

and then bacillus,

they all end in illus, right?

But then, oh, you’re dysbiotic.

Instead, they get a sense.

Now, parents of small babies

learn to detect all sorts of things

coming out of essentially every orifice of the child.

As a readout of health,

because the child doesn’t have language.

And the dog owners, you know,

unfortunately, you learn to do this, too.

For better or for worse, probably for better, right?

So we have this intuition about gut health,

but gut health would be another example

where it’s very clear now that fiber can be helpful,

but it’s mostly consuming these fermented foods

that have been used for ages,

but low-sugar fermented foods of the natto,

kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha, et cetera,

like all these things,

depending on which culture you’re in,

they come in different forms,

certain yogurts, et cetera,

that allow the gut to be healthy,

and it modulates a huge number of systems.

So I don’t think that you’re going to cure depression

by adjusting your gut microbiome,

but if your gut microbiota are not well,

and you improve that,

it will indeed shift the neurotransmitter systems

of your brain and give you a elevated mood.

That shouldn’t come as a surprise anymore,

but I think that the whole world thinks like,

gosh, it must be the serotonin in the gut.

No, it’s actually not serotonin in the gut,

it’s that the gut microbiota create chemicals

that actually become serotonin in the brain,

or become dopamine in the brain.

And so I think that the gut microbiome,

I would put in the same category,

although not quite as important,

I would put it in the category of like sleep.

It modulates a huge number of other processes,

it doesn’t mediate them.

So sunlight, sleep, healthy gut microbiome,

exercise, good nutrition, social connection,

these things all create this general milieu

or environment of health.

I would like to see more distinction

between modulating and mediating effects

and tools out there,

because I also see a lot of unnecessary argument.

People are like, there’s no example

that improving your gut microbiome cures depressions.

Of course there’s not,

but there are really good examples

if your gut microbiome is off

that improving it can improve mood,

which depending on where you are

on that spectrum of depression can really relieve things.

So I think that the future of health,

we hear so much about personalized medicine

and match to your genome,

but we don’t even have the basic,

most people don’t even have the basics right.

And if you watch or listen to the podcast long enough,

hopefully certain themes start to kind of repeat themselves.

But a key theme that you learn in science,

you teach your students,

does it modulate or does it mediate it?

You need to be careful with your language there.

And there’s great information

or as we say, interpretational power there.

If you understand the difference,

then I think we can go a long way

by making that distinction modulating versus mediating.

There are probably other things that modulate health

that I’m overlooking now,

just because of the flow that I’m in.

The cool mitt.

Yeah, the cool mitt.

Palmer cooling.

Okay, I promised to talk about Palmer cooling.

Well, I’ll do it now.

Palmer cooling, they changed the Q&A format.

What can I say?

This is like teaching in the classroom.

All right, very briefly,

that Palmer cooling,

which is essentially placing,

you can cool the core of the body most quickly

by placing cold objects on the hands,

the bottoms of the feet,

or on the top of the face

because of the arrangement of vasculature.

Normally, you’ve got this arteries,

capillaries, veins things,

but at those locations in the body,

you skip the capillaries

and you can basically,

you’re not really passing cool into the body,

but you’re cooling off the core of the body more quickly.

And if you do that in between sets of exercise

or during a run or cycling,

you can dramatically increase your ability to continue.

I actually use the cool mitt for cognitive work,

but you don’t need a cool mitt.

Sorry, cool mitt, guys.

You can just get a thing of ice water

or just very cold water.

And I know it sounds trivially easy,

but you’re actually just cooling your core

by putting your hands or even one hand

on a relatively cold thing of water or ice,

but not so cold that it constricts the vasculature there.

This is the incredible work of my colleague at Stanford,

Dr. Craig Heller.

Why wouldn’t more people do this

if you can double the amount of endurance,

believe it or not,

double the number of sets of exercise you can do

or feel more alert and do more cognitive work?

Why wouldn’t more people do it?

Because people just don’t do it.

And it sounds crazy.

It really sounds crazy, but it’s a real thing.

And I wish more people would do it.

The athletes at Stanford do it.

People in the military do it.

So people who know, know, and they use it, enjoy it.

It’s just, it’s almost like seems too off target

from what you’re trying to accomplish.

I don’t know, for some reason,

people are finally on board breathing,

like in a specific way as a useful tool.

A few years ago, no one was into that.

I mean, just think of how far we’ve come.

It’s incredible.

People are talking about psychedelics,

meditation, breathing.

I think the pandemic for all its pains

and what a challenging period for all sorts of reasons

did wake people up to the idea

that you have to take control over your health

because there’s no magic fairy coming to do it for you.

And with all due respect, there’s no government agency

that’s gonna like drop off the kit at your front door

of like, here’s how you take good care of yourself.

So it’s just not gonna happen.

And it wouldn’t happen under any circumstances.

So it’s a personal responsibility issue.

Huh, all right, what lessons from skateboarding?

The failure part, you know, the failure, failure, failure.

I mean, for me, you know, skateboarding

never was a good skateboarder.

Still have close friends in that community

and our photographer and the guy who does all the visuals

and the other guys that do the visuals for our podcast,

Mike Blayback and Chris and Martin

are all of that community.

You know, I think that for me, that community was really,

as Mike will sometimes say, skateboarders hate everything,

meaning they have a very high threshold

for what they consider acceptable.

It’s not just what you do, it’s how you do it.

Super important.

And I think in neuroscience, there’s a lot of stuff.

In science in general, there’s so many papers

and there’s so many experiments,

like how do you navigate that landscape?

I think it helped me develop a sense of taste.

But the taste that I’m referring to

is not necessarily a taste of which science is cool

or not cool, that too.

But it came through a few times tonight

when I was talking about my mentors.

You know, I picked back then skateboarding

because I really liked the people.

And also you didn’t need your parents to go to a game.

And so that worked for me.

And you could kind of make your own schedule.

And I do think it’s very important to the extent

that you can in science and in everything

to surround yourself with the kinds of people

that you just really enjoy being around.

And so to me, the podcast running a lab

feels a lot like skateboarding.

It’s the same energy.

It’s the same neurochemical systems firing.

So that’s, yeah, that one.

Next favorite fun.

Oh, oh wait, no, that’s inappropriate.

I do have a Feynman story, but it’s inappropriate.

Darn it.

Maybe sometime.

This is why I don’t drink.

Good decision making.

Well, I read all of Feynman’s books.

So I had the pleasure, I never met him.

He was dead before I was born.

But my dad did and he had good Feynman stories

and they’re inappropriate.

So the cool thing about Feynman, right,

was that he didn’t really care

if people understood the specifics

of what he was talking about.

He just wanted people to get turned on

to how amazing physics was.

And he loved general principles.

And one of the things, you know,

the example that’s sometimes given,

I don’t know how many of you are familiar

with the Feynman books, but surely you’re joking,

Mr. Feynman, or what do you care?

What do other people think?

All of that stuff, it’s wonderful.

He picked locks.

You know, we worked at Los Alamos Labs.

They were working on the bomb.

And he basically, well, there and elsewhere.

And every morning, the offices used to come in

and he would spread all the top secret papers

out on the floor.

He would break into the safes at night

and then they were perplexed who could do this.

And he liked safe cracking.

Literally like national security secrets,

just for fun, prankster.

He also bongo drum naked on the roof of Caltech.

And he did most of his writing of theorems in strip clubs.


Learned to draw late in life,

was really into flotation tanks,

and very curious about, but never did psychedelics.

That’s as I understand.

But one of the cool Feynman factoids

is that when he was a kid,

he talked about when he was a child

that his dad used to take him birdwatching

and he’d say, oh, well, that’s a whatever scrub jay

and that’s a whatever, whatever thrush.

And his dad said, no,

don’t cloud your mind with naming and taxonomy.

That’s not meaningful

because then what if it’s the different,

you know, the pygmy thrush or the lesser this or that.

The more important thing is to start to identify principles

of why certain birds behave one way

and certain birds behave another

and to start finding the commonalities and the regularities.

And that’s a theme that I obviously tonight

have tried to impose.

And it’s actually something

that I can’t do in podcasts necessarily

because I can’t thread across 40 episodes

or something like that in the same way

that I could in an evening like this.

So that’s an appropriate Feynman story.

Also, it just seemed like a delightful guy.

And he’s kind of cool.

He’s a little bit street, right?

He had that thick accent.

He was from far Rockaway,

but he didn’t really care much what people thought

or he did and he pretended he didn’t.

Careful when people tell you

they don’t care what people think.

But I think he did to the extent

that it still allow him to get the message out there.

Okay, next question, please.

My horse.


I love this.

I delight in all things animals,

but especially horses

because my high school girlfriend had a horse

and they do that thing where people go,

oh, you know, horses can detect

how they know more about you than you know.

And then I get into the horse

and the horse is like, you know, this.

It’s like a litmus test.

Having a girlfriend with a horse

was very intimidating for me, actually.

I felt like I had to compete with the horse.

She spent all this time with the horse.

He was very large, very like, you know.

Anyway, eventually I broke the horse.

Okay, my horse does the double inhale-long exhale often.

He’s a bit of a stressy guy.

Warm blood, yeah?

Warm blood.

I used to work at the barn.

I used to shovel manure and work at the barn.

She brought her horse to college.

That’s how she followed her off to college.

He never would have gone to college

if she hadn’t gone to college.

And the horses are interesting animals.

They do tell you a lot.

The horse does the double inhale-long exhale often.

He’s a bit of a stressy guy.

Do you suppose this physiological stress

regularly transcends?

Absolutely, absolutely.

In fact, I mentioned warm bloods, right?

I have a colleague at Stanford.

She’s amazing.

Her name is Sue McConnell,

and she is an expert in dog genetics.

So you can imagine I’m always asking her questions.

And we talk about dogs and we talk about horses

because she also, I think she raises warm bloods.

And you hear about hot bloods and warm bloods.

And you also, if you have any familiarity with dogs,

there are dogs like Costello,

where like a nuclear bomb could go off

and Costello might open an eye.

That’s the bulldog.

Economy of effort.

They’re not going to get activated

unless there’s a reason to do it.

They are very, as we call, parasympathetic dominant.

That seesaw of autonomic arousal

is just really, really relaxed.

Getting them into action is more of an effort.

There are other animals, like the whippet, right?

Or the Italian greyhound.

Like they’re always cold.

That are very sympathetic dominant.

And then of course, within a breed or within a species,

there’s a range.

And humans also out within a range.

I think anyone who’s had children will tell you,

you know, he or she has been like this since birth.

Calm, easygoing, or like really easily stressed.

I think that seesaw, we didn’t get into tonight too much,

but there’s a concept with the autonomic regulation

of a hinge.

So don’t think so much about being really stressed out

or really relaxed, but certain animals,

the hinge is tightened so that the seesaw

just kind of tilts mellow, like Costello.

A bulldog almost seems like a different animal

than a whippet.

They’re so very different.

And within the category of horses,

and I’m not an expert in horse genetics,

but they are selected for,

not just for their physical attributes,

but for their psychological or temperament attributes.

And you see this in dogs too.

In fact, the reason I picked Costello,

and Elvis can verify this story,

is I read, I wanted a dog for so many years.

And I went there and there were all these puppies.

And I was like, I heard you need to take them

in the other room, one by one.

And then if it barks for its siblings,

and you’re like, oh, it’s a healthy puppy.

So I walk in and all the dogs are running around like crazy.

It was right around Christmas time, right Elvis?

And they’re running around,

and then there’s one in the back.

And he’s taking advantage of the fact

that all the other ones are waiting,

and he’s just eating out of all of their bowls.

And I was like, I want that one.

So I took that chubby little bastard in the next room,

and I thought, okay, he’s gonna bark for his siblings.

And he laid down and he took a nap.

And I was like, this one, I want this one.

Why did I want that one?

Well, this completes the principle,

which is I wanted a dog like that

because I’m not like that.

And I was very interested in a dog I could take care of,

but also a dog that would help regulate my nervous system.

And so for me, having a dog like that

as opposed to a Whippet or something

that was constantly around, it’s a very calming effect.

And to this day, memory of his snoring

still puts me to sleep.

So I think that your horse probably has,

it kind of idles a little bit higher.

Think about the RPM, revs a little bit higher

at a given speed, higher, more RPM at a given speed.

That’s the way I think about the autonomic system.

How do you reset that?

Well, this is why a lot of exercise is good, right?

Incidentally, my girlfriend’s horse was crazy.

It was gelded late and it was crazy.

I almost said nuts, but that’s like a bad pun.

So, all right.

It was not nuts, but it was crazy.

It was gelded late.

Next question.


Is there any science behind staying motivated

or developing discipline?

Ooh, so this represents kind of the higher tier

of where I think things are gonna go in the next few years

where we’re going to start seeing this

convergence of psychology and biology

where we can get to these harder concepts.

I like to think that we can stay motivated

through a simple process that now will make sense to you

because the last thing I covered was

toggling back and forth between our ability

to be gritty and lean in, kind of in friction,

maybe even a little anger, fear, competitiveness, et cetera,

that kind of grinding in, but that the more sustaining fuel,

the sort of hybrid version, right?

Hybrid fuel model would be one in which you can access that,

but that’s a depletable and not so renewable resource

without a lot of rest.

Meaning working hard out of anger, determination,

and kind of grit will work, but when you are depleted,

you have to stop for a long while.

Whereas if you can access this delight system,

which is really one of dopamine and serotonin both,

in other words, and I wanna think of a,

not of a different way to put this,

but to try and think about what sorts of things

and tools allow you to be and feel most loving,

I know it sounds weak, but it’s anything but weak,

to be most loving in the verb sense of the word

toward what you’re doing.

I actually used to use this trick in college

when I’d encounter a topic I hated.

I would tell myself, I’m really,

I’m just gonna fall in love with this

by trying to find the gems within it.

Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t,

but the wish to do it that way as opposed to,

okay, I’m just gonna grind this out,

at least for me at the time, was a powerful tool.

So motivation and discipline is a tricky one.

That’s sort of the just do it thing.

You need tools to modulate your stress

and to get your sleep, do all the basic things right,

set the right context for you to be in your best chance

of being disciplined,

and that itself is its own form of discipline.

But in terms of continual motivation,

you’re not gonna manage to go against the grain

for very long.

People have managed to go against challenge

for very long time, for very long times.

In fact, I was reading recently about the psychology

of people being kidnapped,

and they have this odd trick that they use.

Have you heard about this?

It’s sort of like Stockholm syndrome,

but they actually convince themselves

to fall in love with their captors,

and then they come up with new ways to escape them,

which is kind of cool.

So there’s something about mentally feeling

like you’re trying to go from back on your heels

to flat-footed that’s very energetically costly.

So again, these systems are very susceptible

to what we call context or top-down regulation.

Hopefully that helps.

I know it’s a little bit abstract.

I wish I could give you a one-minute exercise

that would make you motivated,

but we do talk about tools to get adrenaline going

and things like that.

But spend some time thinking about what would allow you

to sustain effort through positive feelings.

It’s not a light concept at all.

Okay, next question, please.

What would be your biggest piece of advice

for achieving one’s dreams?

Oy, that’s a tough one.

Again, this is gonna be a little abstract.

You know, I’m a believer in this idea

of kind of a seed message.

Robert Green has talked a lot about this,

that we can all kind of think back to a event

or stage of our life.

Typically it’s before puberty,

for other reasons that are kind of interesting,

but where we delight in something, right?

So for me it was fish.

And obviously now I don’t need to work on fish.

It wasn’t about the fish.

I hope that came through.

I mean, aquaria are really cool,

but it’s not about the fish.

It was something about the way they moved.

It was something about the way

that it tickled my excitement.

I used to get dropped off at this little pet shop

in California Avenue in Palo Alto called Moni’s Pet Shop.

My mom used it as childcare.

She would drop me off there and I had this book

and I would log all the tropical fish

and which ones could be with which ones.

And then I was obsessed, right?

But for me, it was something about organizing

and being able to make reliable predictions.

It was about parsimony.

It was about principles as opposed to,

and the colors delighted me and all that kind of stuff.

The equipment delighted me, but then I had puberty

and then like it was something else.

And then I went to college and it was something else

and I got a girlfriend and it was something else.

So it changes over time,

but this is why I recommended

to that young 15 year old person

that they learn to tap into that sense of like,

oh, like this is cool.

Like this feels cool.

I know not everyone else thinks it’s cool.

Maybe they do.

Like this feels good.

I actually have a somatic experience of this.

I’m not a very somatically oriented person.

I’m more up here, but I actually know

if I’m on to something,

if this left arm just kind of starts fidgeting,

like it’s like I want to move or like some people,

you can start to identify ways

in which you suddenly have this positive energy.

It’s not a fear energy.

It’s almost like a magnetism to things.

And just don’t be confused or misdirected

in thinking that it’s that thing.

It’s that, again, energy or that attraction

to something that feels right,

that is your, you know,

I wish we had these divining rod to find water.

That’s your tool.

It’s like antennae.

You want to grow your antennae.

So how do you follow your dreams?

Well, I never thought I’d do a podcast.

I never thought I’d become a neuroscientist.

You have to be willing, of course,

to take risks and to iterate quickly,

but not so quickly that you, you know,

you fail out of the game, et cetera.

If you do get back in, et cetera.

But it’s really about developing an awareness.

Now, the key thing is you’re not going to find this

by going up a mountain and sitting there

or waiting for your passion to just kind of rocket,

you know, does this sort of piano fall onto your head?

It’s not going to happen that way.

You have to interact with the sensory world

and different kinds of people.

And you have to be a little bit of a adventurer

in a safe way, of course,

an adventurer and learn to recognize the signals.

And some people are very in tune with this.

You know, there’s an amazing podcast

with Rick Rubin recently on Joe Rogan’s podcast

where he talks about the creative processes,

kind of this, like, it seems like whatever’s going on

in that beard of his is just connects to the world

and he can just like, there,

like that’s where you need to go.

And that’s, you know, but that’s part of the magic

is you don’t really know.

And because it’s all energetic, it’s all energetic.

And when I say energetic,

I don’t mean in the mystical sense.

I mean, you have to learn to sense

those fluctuations in energy.

Some people can sense them very easily

because they’re very mellow.

And if something gets them really excited,

they notice as a big Delta, as we say in science,

big change.

Other people, they ride kind of high all the time.

And so everything’s exciting to them.

And they miss a lot of the subtle fluctuations

in what’s really special and right for them.

In fact, mania is characterized

by hyper elevated levels of dopamine

and everything’s a good idea, right?

And depression is the opposite.

Nothing’s a good idea.

Nothing’s gonna work, right?

And those are the extremes

and those are rough conditions, obviously.

But for most people, it’s about learning

to detect those subtle fluctuations.

And every time, every single time you find somebody

who is exceptional at their craft

and doing well in life, okay?

There are a lot of people who are exceptional

at their craft, but not necessarily doing well on the whole.

Those people have a kind of intuition

about what feels good to them.

This year’s Nobel Prize winner in chemistry

is my colleague, Carolyn Bertozzi.

And all I know of her,

except the fact that she’s an amazing chemist,

is they did this interview with her.

And she said that when everyone would go out in college,

she was finding excuses to stay home

and read organic chemistry.

Now that, to me, sounds like a bad night.

But for her, it was pure delight.

And she’s wired for that.

And I think her work is gonna be vitally important

and transformative for humanity, I really do.

So how do you succeed in chasing your dreams?

You succeed in identifying what they are,

but you don’t know at the outset.

You wanna find the energy to find the right path

and continually course correct

when you will undoubtedly be off your path.

That’s essentially what I’ve done.

I still look for the feeling of delighting

in Costello or the cuttlefish.

That’s what I’m looking for.

It’s not a template I have to match,

but that’s my like, oh yeah, I know what that feels like.

It’s like a texture.

It’s like if you think about a bunch

of different textures of sandpaper,

it’s like this one that just feels really good.

And so you’re comparing everything to that.

Because the system that involves all these chemicals,

you’ll find it if you learn to pay attention to it.

But you won’t find it sitting,

staring at your belly button or going up a mountain.

You have to be in sensory experience in order to find it.

Reflection is good, but you need to get into action.


Wow, all right, well, okay.

So psilocybin, opinion of the psychedelics generally.

We just had an episode with my colleague, Nolan Williams,

who’s a triple board certified neurologist, psychiatrist.

This is a fun thing about working at Stanford.

It’s also very humbling because you’re like,

well, who are these people?

Got three board certifications.

You know, the psilocybin, first of all, not for everybody.

People with psychosis, it is still illegal,

decriminalized certain places.

So obviously the cautionary notes,

people who have drug addiction issues

or other kinds of addiction issues need to be thoughtful

about diving into a neurochemical landscape like that.

But it does appear that the clinical trials

on one macro dose, this is what’s interesting to me.

A lot of people talk about microdosing psilocybin,

but the data, at least according to Matthew Johnson,

who was also on the podcast,

the data for microdosing are not really there, frankly.

The data on single session macro dose,

the sort of heroic doses that have been talked about

in the psychonaut community for depression

and to some extent PTSD and for eating disorders

and sort of end of life preparation are quite encouraging.

In fact, the current data suggests that about 2 3rds

of people achieve lasting relief from one session.

Now, keep in mind, those are guided sessions

with physicians in the room, et cetera.

I do think there’s a potential hazard of all psychedelics,

which is they alter, this includes MDMA or especially MDMA,

they alter the chemical landscape in you

such that a lot of things can serve as attractors

in that state, meaning you can get really

into the sound of music in an MDMA session,

feel connected to that and waste the opportunity

for some more meaningful transformative rewiring.

And I do think that that’s worth paying attention to.

So that’s the usefulness of having a therapeutic guide

there is they can continually steer you back

to what at least for you is the more meaningful work.

But it’s very encouraging and Nolan Williams,

who I trust is again, triple board certified MD,

said that in the studies of lifetime perceived individual

and societal risk of all the compounds out there,

except for caffeine, psilocybin is at the bottom of the list

whereas things like heroin, cocaine, alcohol,

methamphetamine sit at the top of the list,

actually alcohol quite high on that list

at certain amounts of consumption.

So I’m very excited about what’s happening

in the landscape of psilocybin,

but I’m not so excited about the micro dosing data,

very excited about the single heroic dose data.

One interesting thing there perhaps,

what seems to be the unifying feature

of a successful psilocybin session

is that at some point the person feels

as if it’s like too much of an autonomic thing,

they kind of get to this point

and then they are encouraged to quote unquote, let go.

And I’m fascinated by this concept of letting go

because I’m a neuroscientist,

we don’t know what that means,

but it seems like being able to ride the wave

of autonomic arousal from top to bottom

seems to be very powerful

for trauma and depression treatment.

And this is interesting,

a lot of people think that one of the major issues

in humans nowadays is we’re stressed about a lot of things,

but we never actually get to go

into the full stress response and then let it relax again.

And catharsis was big at one point,

scream therapy, Steve Jobs is really into scream therapies.

Whether or not catharsis is healthy or not

has been debated,

but the data are kind of pointing to the fact

that it may be provided that the catharsis

is not obviously someone damaging themself or somebody else.

So maybe we should all be screaming a lot more.

Why does my desire to eat disappear after I use the sauna?

Oh, interesting.

I can go in hungry and get out with no desire to eat.

I can only speculate.

You know, the sauna or any kind of deliberate heat exposure

that’s uncomfortable releases this molecule dynorphin.

This is actually the same molecule

that’s released under conditions of alcohol withdrawal,

makes you feel agitated and not good.

And then there’s this rebound.

The way it feels good is later,

it causes this up-regulation

in the so-called mu-opioid receptors.

So the chemicals that you have,

your so-called endogenous opioids,

not the opioids that are related to the opioid crisis,

but the ones that you naturally make

are able to have a more robust effect after the sauna.

Dynorphin is an appetite suppressant

and for reasons related to kind of general discomfort

in the body.

So that’s the only reason I can speculate.

There are a number of other things that sauna does,

including massive increases in growth hormone,

provided you don’t sauna too much.

So if you do it once a week for four 20-minute sessions,

spaced five minutes apart,

you get these enormous increases in growth hormone.

If you start doing it more often,

you get still significant,

but smaller increases in growth hormone.

And my team, this is how the podcast goes too.

At some point, Rob just goes, it’s enough.

So if you think that the episodes are long now,

they’d be a lot longer.

Listen, I just want to, before we part,

I know it’s a Sunday night and people have to go.

I want to thank everyone for coming out tonight.

I know that, at least for me,

I’m still sort of baffled, but pleasantly so,

that people are interested in investing time

to come out and hear hours of a nerd like me

talk about science and tools.

And I’m delighted that people

are hopefully gleaning some useful information.

Please do pass along the information.

I didn’t invent this stuff.

As I mentioned before,

I was not consulted at the design phase.

I have no domain over it.

This is the stuff of mother nature

and whatever other beliefs you have,

they’re here in us.

And of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t finish by saying,

have a wonderful night

and thank you for your interest in science.

Thank you.

Thank you.

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