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Open the Podcasts app and search for The Doctor’s Farmacy. If you’re viewing this site on your phone, you can just tap on the

Tap the subscribe button and new shows will be added to your library.

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Episode 178
The Doctor's Farmacy

How to Rewire Your Brain For Sleep

Open the Podcasts app and search for The Doctor’s Farmacy. If you’re viewing this site on your phone, you can just tap on the

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When I was in medical school, they taught us we can’t regenerate brain cells. If you stayed up too late studying or did drugs, you’d lose precious connections and that was that. Now, luckily, we know that isn’t true. There are multiple ways to encourage the plasticity of the brain at any age, to enhance everything from sleep to learning.

Most people don’t realize that sleep is a keystone of health. When we’re sleep-deprived, it’s really hard to eat well or to have the energy to exercise. It’s hard to think straight. It’s even hard to stay in a good mood or have a positive outlook on life. Understanding the way the brain and our neurotransmitters work means we can hack our sleep to not just feel amazing but to level up our focus, skills, and knowledge.

Today on The Doctor’s Farmacy, I talk to Dr. Andrew Huberman about the body-brain connection and how small actions can have huge payoffs for our brain health.

Dr. Huberman eloquently explains the different sleep and waking states we may find ourselves in and which neurotransmitters are behind them. Using the brain-body connection, we can embrace different practices to create more of what we want and less of what we don’t. It’s a constant balancing act, but it’s one we are learning more about controlling to optimize our sleep patterns, periods of learning, and even self-regulation in times of stress.

I’m always interested in how nutrition impacts the brain. Dr. Huberman and I explore which components of food can specifically alter the gut-brain connection, like EPA from fish oil or probiotics from fermented foods. And we talk about why removing processed foods is so imperative for the brain: they cause the neurons in our gut to remodel in the wrong way, retracting deeper into the layers of the gut and diminishing the sensitivity of the gut-brain connection. So yes, we need good foods to optimize the brain, but we have to remove the harmful ones, too.

We also talk about supplements for sleep, a new perspective on hypnosis, cravings and dopamine, and so much more. I hope you’ll tune in for a hopeful and action-oriented look at literally changing the brain.

This episode is brought to you by Athletic Greens, BiOptimizers, and Cozy Earth.

Athletic Greens is offering Doctor’s Farmacy listeners a full year supply of their Vitamin D3/K2 Liquid Formula free with your first purchase, plus 5 free travel packs. Just go to athleticgreens.com/hyman to take advantage of this great offer.

Right now, BiOptimizers is offering Doctor’s Farmacy listeners 10% off your Magnesium Breakthrough order. Just go to magbreakthrough.com/hyman and use code HYMAN10 to receive this amazing offer.

Cozy Earth makes it super easy to try out their products with a 30-day free trial and 10-year warranty. Plus, right now they are offering their best sale price ever with 40% off. Just go to cozyearth.com use the code HYMANPODCAST40 at checkout.

I hope you enjoyed this conversation as much as I did. Wishing you health and happiness,
Mark Hyman, MD
Mark Hyman, MD

In this episode, you will learn:

  1. What happens during the primary sleep and waking states
    (0:32 / 18:09)
  2. How states of alertness and calmness affect our ability to do certain tasks
    (4:14 / 21:51)
  3. Getting and avoiding bright light exposure at various points in the day is vitally important for sleep
    (10:38 / 28:24)
  4. Supporting sleep with apigenin (or chamomile extract), magnesium threonate, magnesium bisglycinate, and waking state hypnosis
    (19:10 / 39:17)
  5. Why you’re waking up in the middle of the night and unable to fall back asleep
    (21:54 / 42:01)
  6. Eating for quality sleep
    (25:25 / 45:32)
  7. Neuroplasticity and restoring brain function at any age
    (40:10 / 1:00:17))
  8. The keys to learning new skills, enhancing memory, changing personality, and emotionality
    (46:04 / 1:06:11)
  9. Tools to overcome the effects of technology on the brain
    (1:01:55 / 1:21:49)
  10. Pharmaceuticals, supplements, and dietary habits to optimize focus, learning, and physical skill building
    (1:07:09 / 1:27:03)

Guest

 
Mark Hyman, MD

Mark Hyman, MD is the Founder and Director of The UltraWellness Center, the Head of Strategy and Innovation of Cleveland Clinic's Center for Functional Medicine, and a 13-time New York Times Bestselling author.

If you are looking for personalized medical support, we highly recommend contacting Dr. Hyman’s UltraWellness Center in Lenox, Massachusetts today.

 
Dr. Andrew Huberman

Dr. Huberman is a neuroscientist and tenured Professor in the Department of Neurobiology at the Stanford University School of Medicine. He has made numerous important contributions to the fields of brain development, brain function, and neural plasticity, which is the ability of our nervous system to rewire and learn new behaviors, skills, and cognitive functioning.

Dr. Huberman is a McKnight Foundation and Pew Foundation Fellow and was awarded the Cogan Award in 2017, which is given to the scientist making the largest discoveries in the study of vision. His lab’s most recent work focuses on the influence of vision and respiration on human performance and brain states such as fear and courage. Work from the Huberman Laboratory at Stanford University School of Medicine has been published in top journals including Nature, Science, and Cell and has been featured in TIME, BBC, Scientific American, Discover, and other top media outlets.

Transcript

Announcer:
Coming up on this episode of The Doctor’s Farmacy.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
Getting quality, sufficient sleep on a regular basis is without question the foundation of mental and probably physical health as well.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Welcome to The Doctor’s Farmacy. I’m Dr. Mark Hyman and that’s pharmacy with an F, Farmacy, a place for conversations that matter. If you care about your brain, if you care about making it better, if you care about figuring out how to hack the one organ that we pretty much ignored for most of my medical training, other than saying it’s not connected to the rest of your body, then you should listen closely to this podcast because we’ve got an incredible guest, Dr. Andrew Huberman, who I’ve known for a number of years. He’s a neuroscientist, a tenured professor in the department of neurobiology at Stanford University School of Medicine, and he’s made a lot of really important contributions in the field of brain development, brain function, neuroplasticity, we’re going to get deep into that, what that means, which basically is the ability of our nervous system to rewire and learn new things like skills, behaviors, and even cognitive function.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
He is the McKnight Foundation and Pew Foundation fellow, and was awarded the Cogan Award in 2017, given to the scientist making the largest discoveries in the field of vision. Pretty good. His most recent work in his lab focuses on the influence of vision and respiration on human performance and brain states such as fear and courage. He’s also focused on sleep and many, and many, and many other topics that relate to brain. He works from the Huberman Laboratory at Stanford University School of Medicine, and his work’s been published in major journals like Nature, Science, Cell, featured in Time Magazine, BBC, and has now an amazing new podcast called the Huberman Lab, which I would encourage you to listen to because it’s basically like a bootcamp for understanding your body. Welcome Andrew.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
Well, great to be here. Thanks so much for having me and great to see you again.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Great to see you again too. Yeah, it’s been awhile. We met five years ago in Mykonos at a conference. What a place to meet in Greece.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
That’s right.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
And it was a really mind-opening expansion. Then listening to you talk about your work and I’m sure in the last five years, it’s grown quite a bit and you’ve been focused on really I think a topic that most of us aren’t really focused on too much, which is how do we take care of our brains, how do we optimize our brains, what are the ways in which we harm our brains and how do we stop doing that. And how do we actually think about not only our brains, but our minds, because our minds control the quality of our life and the quality of our brain function also determines the quality of our life.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
And it drives all our behaviors, which are the things that we struggle most with, whether it’s relationships or money or work, or body or food or whatever, we’re always struggling with those challenges. So how did you come first to understand that the brain was such an important thing and be a neuroscientist? Because honestly, I remember reading the neuroscience book by Kandel who was incredible.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
He’s still alive.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
He’s still alive. I’ve met him. He won the Nobel prize. Amazing dude. And I love the book. But I’m like, “Man, this is really, there’s a lot of stuff, I think I’m going to pick another field.” I really have deep respect for neurologists and neuroscientists. And now, 40 years later, after I read that book, it’s just gone so far into the brain territory and understanding and mapping what it does, how it works, our states, how to change it, how to work with it. So tell us how you sort of got into all this.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
I was a sophomore in college. I took an abnormal psychology class and that’s the interesting stuff.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Is there something like normal psychology because I haven’t met anybody who has that.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
I don’t know if they still call it that but it was called abnormal psychology and it’s the discussion of schizophrenia, depression, OCD. And there were very few lectures focused on anything biological, but there were a few talked about serotonin. This was right when Prozac first came out, the book Listening to Prozac came out, so it was late eighties, early nineties. There was one brain imaging study where they showed a picture of a brain lighting up OCD. I’ll never forget that image. Judith Rapoport, NIH, was the one of the first people to identify areas of the brain that were involved in OCD. And I loved the idea that there were chemicals and real physical entities to these complicated brain and mind states. It felt to me like something that it just made sense. It was sort of mechanical, I got the idea in mind that you could actually physically see and maybe even hold onto these things.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
And so that’s what drew me to it. And I eventually shifted over to, there was no neuroscience then, there’s actually no neuroscience degree. They called it bio-psychology.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Really?

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
Yeah. And other places called it psychobiology, which is even weirder. But now we just call it neuroscience, of course. So I eventually joined a laboratory as an undergraduate and I was working on physiology. I was studying metabolism and thermal regulation, which it’s interesting, now that’s kind of getting a resurgence with brown fat, interest in brown fat. These incredible studies that were being done at the time of fidgeters, people that fidget a lot, burn about 2,500 calories more per day.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
They call that NEAT right?

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
Neat, non-exercise activity thermogenesis.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah. I wrote about that in one of my first books. I definitely have that. I think that’s why I’m thin. I’m a constant fidgeter. And if you were the person sitting in front of me in medical school class, you would not be happy.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
Yeah, it’s amazing. 800 to 2,500 calories burned more per day. We now understand, it’s interesting, there’s some data that show that neurons actually connect to fat tissue and release epinephrine, adrenaline, into the adipose tissue and can convert white fat into brown fat locally. And that’s part of the thermogenic effect. It was always thought that the effect of fidgeting was adrenaline release from the adrenals, but it’s actually a local effect of neurons. So anyway, I joined a lab where we worked on metabolism. We actually were studying the effects of MDMA, ecstasy. At that time, a schedule, probably still now an illegal drug, but it’s slowly making the migration into clinical trials and treatment on thermal regulation. I really liked physiology.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
And to this day, I love talking about the mind and decision-making and memory and consciousness and those things, but I was really drawn to it from the mind-body relationship. How we perceive if we are too hot or too cold involves receptors in our body, neurons in our body, and the hypothalamus, up in the brain. And so I was drawn to that. And then I went off to graduate school and studied neural development and neural plasticity. And that eventually took me into neural regeneration. I want to understand how we could repair the visual system and brain after injury. And over the years, things have drifted back toward psychology, how human beings can modify their experience and their behavior through what I would call self-directed intervention. But it was really that seed of wanting to attach something really physical to what was otherwise a psychological discussion.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
But does the mind really exist in the brain?

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
So I don’t know. That’s a good question.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
In Chinese, and I studied Chinese in college, and the language is even different. The word for the mind is heart.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
Interesting.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
So when you say, you talk about your heart, your xin, which is your mind, it’s like your heart and mind, it’s almost like your heart mind as opposed to your mind, brain mind, which is we talk about it in Western culture.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
Interesting. I didn’t know that. Well, I do know one thing, which is that, and you of course know this, but that the brain and the body are intimately connected in both directions, right? The brain and the spinal cord, our central nervous system, send connections out to our muscles, but also our spleen, our gallbladder, our lungs, our diaphragm, and all those organs of the body, the stomach of course, are also sending a rich set of connections back to the brain. And so it’s that reciprocal connection that is undeniable, that what happens in the body impacts the brain and what happens in the brain impacts the body. And I think that one of the great triumphs of neuroscience and health and psychology in medicine in the last five years really is that people are starting to really internalize that fact. As opposed to thinking if it’s mind-body, brain-body stuff, that it’s somehow fluffy. No, there are neurons in gut that fire in response to sugar and trigger dopamine release in the brain. And there’s no question about it. We have genetic markers for those cells.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
It’s a bidirectional communication.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
Absolutely. And so I think that’s the thing that’s most exciting to me lately is that the whole world now, I think frankly because of COVID and the fact that people had to become aware of the immune system and the lungs and the brain and the questions, “Are there effects on the brain?” Because of all the questions that are being asked about one’s own health, people are aware that their body is a system that includes the brain.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah, incredible. Actually, you could say the last five years, you seem like you came at this by understanding the mind affecting the body, but seeing then the other part was happening. I came at it by working on the body and noticing all these effects on the mind and the brain. And it was shocking to me as a functional medicine doctor back 20 years ago, when I started treating people’s physical issues, inflammation in their body, their psychiatric problems would go away, their PTSD would get better, their anxiety, depression, bipolar disease, schizophrenia, autism, Alzheimer’s. Their brains would totally change. And I’m like, “What’s going on here?”

Dr. Mark Hyman:
And I really began to dig into the literature and it was really just beginning at that time. But this was, probably started working on it 15 years ago, it was a book called The UltraMind Solution, which is about how the body affects the mind. And the subtitle of the book is How to Fix Your Broken Brain by Healing Your Body First.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
I love it.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
It’s not necessarily first or second, but you have to master the physiology of your brain through working on the physiology of your body as an ecosystem. And that’s what functional medicine’s really all about. And it’s that thinking that really is starting to catch hold in the traditional scientific community, which is kind of exciting.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
It is exciting. I love this idea of using the body to adjust the mind in one direction or the other, because the brain is housed in this cranial vault, this thick thing, right? So we don’t have access to it. You can’t just drop electrodes in there. It’s not trivial. We do it, but you have to drill through the skull. You can take a drug.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
I’ll pass on that one.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
Yeah. So you can go into the gut, but then of course it has to pass through the blood brain barrier. But what we ingest and how we move has a direct relationship because of these neurons that connect the body and brain. And so I think that in the very near future, we are going to see a tremendous tide change about this mind-body thing.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
And I think we can look to the gut-brain interaction is one of the major reasons for that, that people now understand that there’s stuff goes on in their stomach that impacts their mood.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
That’s body-mind.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
Yeah. Yeah, it should be body-mind or body-brain, but I think 10 years ago, if you said that, “Eating probiotics is going to shift the way you feel, psychologically,” people would have thought that was complete fluffy, meaningless, whatever, pseudoscience. But I’ve got an upstairs colleague at Stanford, Justin Sonnenburg, who’s done work showing that people that had regularly ingest fermented foods, the inflammatory markers go down, but all these incredible positive psychological effects too. So there’s now a lot of science to support it, but I’m telling you what you already knew.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
This is so huge. This is such a huge idea because most of us are pretty well aware that if we want to lose weight or keep our bodies healthy, we have to eat well. We want to exercise. We understand we need to condition our bodies and get healthy. But if you ask most people, “What are the things that your brain needs to thrive?” they’re going to be pretty clueless.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
Right.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
You say, “Doctor, how do I improve my brain function?” Well, do Sudoku puzzles.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
Yeah, or the whole nuns don’t get Alzheimer’s right? This whole thing. Like the example of blue zones and nuns and things like that. And they provide insights, but it’s unclear what the directives are.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah. For sure. And you’ve spent a lot of your time studying the way in which we can access our brain through our biology and then change our brain states to enhance its function. Can you talk about that work?

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
Sure. So the brain has different states and states are a little bit like emotions, but they’re easier to talk about because emotions are very subjective. Your sense of happiness and my sense of happiness could be similar, but we don’t really know how to scale them. States are best thought of first by thinking about a state that we all go into and we can all agree on, which is sleep. So sleep is divided into multiple stages, but it’s a state of inaction. No surprise there, we’re not walking around unless we’re sleep walkers. And it’s divided mainly into two general states. One is the early part of the night when we are mostly in slow wave sleep and our body is repairing itself. That’s mainly growth hormone is released. That’s a state in which our dreams tend to have very little emotional load. And it’s mostly about motor learning, physical repair of the body, et cetera.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
And then the second half of the night where we are in so-called REM sleep, rapid eye movement sleep, is the other major state where the dream content tends to have a lot of emotional richness. The dreams are very intense. And we know that we don’t release the molecule epinephrine, adrenaline, during REM sleep. And it’s sort of like a built-in every night therapy, exposure therapy. The argument we got into with somebody a few days ago, the challenge that we’re going through in a relationship, an old thing, wound, or shameful thing gets worked out slowly over time in sleep. And we’re basically confronted with stuff in sleep, in this REM sleep, and we don’t release the molecules that allow us to act on that. If you ever wake up from one of these dreams, you immediately get a surge of adrenaline that’s very intense.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Right.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
So it’s kind of like built-in exposure therapy.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
It’s not happening when you’re-

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
That’s right. And then we wake up and we don’t have a language for waking states the same way we do for sleeping states. So then we wake up and we don’t have a language to explain the states that we go through in waking the same way we do for sleep. But there are two general features of states that I think are really powerful as an anchor point for thinking about states of mind and emotions, et cetera. And those are the ones that are regulated by the so-called autonomic nervous system. The name is a real misnomer because it’s the system in our body, it’s sort of like a seesaw that takes us between different levels of alertness and calmness. Some people talk about these in terms of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system, but we can just discard with the nomenclature for now. Sympathetic means more alertness, parasympathetic means more calmness, essentially.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
And it’s like a seesaw. And so the way to imagine this is that throughout your day, you have varying levels of alertness and calmness. Now, if you are very alert, extremely alert, we call that panic or anxiety. But with that also comes something beneficial, which is focus. So we know that without alertness, there’s no focus. And then there are states of deep calmness, sometimes we think of that as fatigue. It could be fatigue at its extreme, but it could also be a nice feeling of tranquility. And in states of calmness, the mind and the way that thoughts are organized and feelings are organized is that there tends to be less linear structure. Actually, there’s more creativity in calm states than there is in hyper-focused states. Hyper-focused alert states are great for implementing a strategy. You already understand.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Running from a tiger.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
Like running from a tiger or performing surgery or your kid comes to you and has a problem, and to them, you can see that it’s huge, but you know how to navigate this problem because you have the perspective of having been a 14 year old before. So you say, “Okay, here’s what we’re going to do. Who talked to who? Who said this?” So there’s nothing really creative about that situation. It’s just kind of an implementation what you already know. Again, we don’t have a language to talk about what creativity really is at a neuroscience level, we can start to approach it, or what focus is or what stress is. But we all could understand that there is an undeniable truth about our nervous system, which is that our states of alertness and calmness set us up to be better or worse for certain kinds of events.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
So for instance, if you want to sit down and do focused work, if you’re too calm, too sleepy, that’s not good. Your mind will drift. Similarly, if you want to relax and have a meal, if you’re too stressed, if you’re too alert, that’s not good for all sorts of reasons, as we know as well. So one of the things my lab has really been focused on is to try and figure out what are the levers, what are the entry points for people to be able to deliberately adjust their level of alertness and calmness in this seesaw-like fashion.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
And then to just elaborate on the seesaw analogy a little bit, try and imagine oneself, not as this seesaw, but you’re a person on the seesaw. All day long, basically you’re moving back and forth, you’re surfing this seesaw between alertness and calmness. And one of the places where we see pathology, acute stress turns to chronic stress or acute stress turns to chronic fatigue, is when the hinge on the seesaw gets too tight and the thing gets locked at one side.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
Okay?

Dr. Mark Hyman:
A lot of people are locked in the stress state.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
Locked in the stress state or locked in the fatigue state.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
I don’t think there’s too many people I see walking around too calm and relaxed.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
Right. Because the hardest thing to do is an active, to surf the seesaw.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
The reason just a simple seesaw doesn’t work as an analogy is because it’s an active process. You’re literally making adjustments all the time.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Like surfing.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
Exactly. And what happens in sleep is it’s as if we get to climb off the seesaw and relax for the night and then get back on there and we’re able to surf the seesaw again. So we know there are a couple foundational truths that can emerge from this model of how the brain works and how the mind works, which is that if we don’t sleep, the hinge gets very loose on the seesaw, like stress. Stress, stress, stress, exhaustion. Stress, stress, stress, exhaustion. It bangs back and forth. And it gets harder to surf this seesaw. And so sleep is sort of the foundational element of all waking states. We often think about sleep as its own thing. But sleep is the thing that allows you to deliberately access waking states in a really directed way.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
We’re going to get really deep into sleep.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
Yeah. So that’s the way I think about it. And all of this serves as an entry point to discussions about plasticity, et cetera. But one thing to emphasize is that the seesaw and surfing the seesaw is not a brain thing, it’s not a body thing. It’s a brain-body thing, or more appropriately, as you said, a body-brain thing, it’s a loop. So we can’t say that our states of alertness or because of what’s going on in our head, because we’ve also got adrenal glands that are releasing adrenaline. We can’t say that states of calmness are just about relaxing the mind because it also involves turning off a number of systems in the body. And the nervous system is really what is responsible for that. And so what’s exciting is that there are now entry points where one can adjust the level of alertness or calmness, that one can get better at surfing the seesaw, as I’m referring to.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
I’ve never heard it described like that, but I think that’s a very good description of something I’ve learned to do to actually manage my brain and my physical states. And I developed all sorts of techniques over the years that worked for me. And they’re different for different people. For example, if I’m working on a project, I’m just foggy and stuck, I’ll like take a steam and I’ll jump in an ice bath. That’ll change my state.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
Right. Well the adrenaline from the ice bath will definitely put you in a more alert state.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
I meditate or I’ll do yoga or I’ll get a massage or I’ll go sit by a river. There are mechanisms that I’ve learned that are ways to change my state. And even using food to change your brain states and using supplements and using all kinds of hacks, essentially, to regulate the thing that we feel like we can’t regulate because a lot of us feel powerless at the effect of our minds and the effects of our cognitive states. And we don’t realize that there are all sorts of doorways that we can use to actually enter different brain and mind states by certain techniques, whether it’s breathing or hot and cold therapy or all the things that I mentioned. So from your experience, how do people start to learn those things and what are the most important things you come across that are important for helping people to regulate that process, that seesaw, where they’re surfing instead of getting stuck?

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
Yeah. So there are approaches that are going to work very quickly and there are approaches that are going to be slower. And you might say, “Well, I just want the fast ones.” But that the health of the seesaw, if you will, the integrity of the seesaw and the ability to surf, it relies mainly on a couple of foundational elements. And these are going to be slow acting systems in the body that, I don’t want to bring in too many analogies. But the way I think about it is your wellbeing, if you will, is sort of like a boat on the shore and the tide has to be in for the boat to get off the shore. And so there are things that you can do on a regular basis that establish a basic ability to-
PART 1 OF 4 ENDS [00:23:04]

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
That establish a basic ability to operate the Seesaw, to serve the Seesaw. And certainly, sleep is going to be the number one variable. Getting quality, sufficient sleep on a regular basis is, without question, the foundation of mental and probably physical health, as well.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Many people don’t understand that.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
It’s a non-negotiable thing. I think that many people are afraid to acknowledge it because people have now… Once you really appreciate how vital sleep is and how great life can be if you’re getting good sleep, and how terrible it is for our health, both immediate and long-term, if you’re not, I think then it creates its own sleep anxiety. And so one of the things that I’ve been very active at…

Dr. Mark Hyman:
I’ve had that, for sure.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
Yeah. To be fair, the body and brain are resilient. If you don’t get a good night’s sleep every once in a while, it’s fine, you can manage that. Certainly new parents do just fine over time, although it’s challenging, but there are a few things that really help with sleep. So in terms of… And there are a lot of causes of insomnia and things.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
So they’re the basics, like avoiding caffeine in the afternoon if you’re caffeine sensitive, et cetera. But one of them is to start to understand that this state of sleep is not something that you should be able to drop into unless you do a couple of other things properly. And based on the research done, in part by my lab, but mainly a guy out at the National Institutes of Mental Health named Samer Hattar, he’s the director of their chronobiology unit, he’s done these beautiful studies showing that light exposure early in the day, getting bright light exposure, ideally from sunlight within an hour, ideally within 30 minutes of waking up is vitally important for getting sleep later that night. And the reason is basically once every 24 hours, you’re going to have a spike in cortisol. It’s non-negotiable, it’s built in your genome. It’s going to happen.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
So do people in Arizona’s sleep better than people in Seattle?

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
Well, they do, actually. And a lot of people in Seattle need light boxes because if you’re living in an area where you can’t get sunlight first thing in the day, feel free to flip on artificial lights. Basically the rule is you want as much bright, ideally natural, but if you can’t get natural, artificial light would be fine, early in the day. And what that does is it basically times this cortisol spike to wake you up. That spike in cortisol isn’t to stress you out, it’s to wake you up. And then it sets a timer on your melatonin release.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
So 14 to 16 hours after your bright light exposure, you’re going to get a pulse of melatonin, which is the hormone, of course, that promotes sleepiness and puts you to sleep, independent of any supplementation of melatonin. Light inhibits melatonin through a direct pathway, through the eyes, to the brainstem, and then up to the pineal. It’s a well-established pathway. So the number one thing is get bright exposure to your eyes, so no sunglasses. Eyeglasses or contacts are fine early in the day. How long? Well, it depends on how bright. So anywhere from two minutes to 10 minutes. Ideally, you’re not looking at your phone during that time, ideally it’s sunlight. But if you wake up before, flip on a bunch of artificial lights and then get outside, once the sunlight is out.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Once outside taking a walk, you’re not looking at the sun, right?

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
You’re not looking directly into the sun. You don’t want to burn your retinas out. Indirect exposure is fine, but there’s a class of neurons called the melanopsin ganglion cells that reset your circadian clock and time things nicely. They time the cortisol, they time the melatonin. So that’s the number one thing for… I wouldn’t just say for sleep, but also for optimizing levels of alertness throughout the day. The other thing is that you really want to avoid bright light between the hours of 11:00 PM to 4:00 AM, if you’re on a standard schedule. Shift workers is totally different.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
The reason is Samer’s lab and a guy named David Burson at Brown University have shown that bright, artificial light of any color, blue blockers are a no, if there’s bright, artificial light, it activates a pathway in the brain involving this brain structure called the habenula, when I was an undergraduate. Actually, someone asked in neuroanatomy, “What’s the habenula, dude?” No one knew. The habenula is involved, actually, in generating our feelings of disappointment. It suppresses dopamine release for several days afterward. Now, if you have to go to the bathroom or you have to pull an emergency trip to the supermarket or something in the middle of the night, you don’t have to worry about crushing your dopamine long-term. It’s a chronic thing. But you really want to dim the lights in the evening, starting at about 10:00 PM.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
You said those blue blocker things, that doesn’t work?

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
Well, the blue blockers will work, but if the lights are bright enough, it doesn’t matter what wavelength they are. And this is because these melanopsin cells, these neurons in the eye, they do respond best to blue light, but they’re very broad spectrum. The wavelengths that they will respond to… You can shine bright red light on one of these cells, and it will signal to the brain, “Time to wake up.” So it’s really key to just dim things down. And I always say blue blockers are terrific, but you don’t want to wear them during the morning and early part of the day, because blue light is the optimal stimulus for this wake-up signal. The blue blocker thing is great, in principle, but people kind of took it too far. So bright light when you want to be awake and alert, and dim light when you want to be asleep.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
So how many hours before bed? Because people are up on their TVs and their screens and computers and phones.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
So the subtle things that people can do are to start dimming the lights in the evening, right about the time the sun goes down is when you want to say, “Oh, the sun is going down outside. And if it’s overcast, it’s getting dark.” Well, that’s a time to dim the lights in your home. The other thing is because of where these neurons are situated in the eye, overhead lights will activate this wake up signal much more readily than lights down low, so the Scandinavians have it right. In the evening, you want desk lamps. Most people going to have floor lighting in their house. Desk lamps, early in the day and throughout the day, that’s when you would want overhead lights. So those two things are going to be very beneficial. A lot of bright light, overhead light throughout the day, ideally from sunlight. And then in the evening, avoid bright lights of any color, any kind between 11:00 PM and 4:00 AM. Don’t get neurotic about it. But many people find that just making these changes…

Dr. Mark Hyman:
[inaudible 00:29:22] be off from six o’clock at night?

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
No. And there’s actually the third tool, which is also grounded in really nice work, a paper published in Scientific Report shows that if you get some sunlight in your eyes in the evening, right about the time of sunset, and if you can’t get it from the actual sunset, just go outside. You don’t have to see the sun setting, you just need the light, the ambient light, the outdoor light in the morning is sufficient. There are so many photons out there, even on a cloudy day, you’d be amazed.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
In the evening, if you see or get outside and get some sunlight or you get some light in your eyes, that has an effect of lowering the sensitivity of the retina, of the neural part of the eye, and provides you a kind of insurance. It offsets a little bit of the late night, bright light exposure. I call it sort of your Netflix inoculation. It kind of protects you against some of the ill effects. Now, if someone’s schedule is really messed up, I mean, they’re not sleeping, they’re really screwed up, there’s a study out of the University of Colorado that showed that, this is a little extreme, but going camping for two days, reset these melatonin and cortisol rhythms for two weeks.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
It’s pretty incredible.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
It’s really incredible.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Now, I notice when I go camping or I go out in the wilderness or far away from technology, I just sleep way better. And had a storm at my house last summer, and we got power out for four or five days, and we just had candles at night and it was unbelievable. I loved it. And it felt so good to not have all that bright light at night and to go to sleep and sleep better and deeper.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
Yeah, you really reset. I’m glad you mentioned candle light. Candle light in the evening is fine. Actually, not to turn people into geeky scientists, but there’s a great app, I have no relationship to it, but it’s completely free. It’s called Light Meter, and you can run this experiment. You can download the app. You go outside on an overcast day in Boston, in January, and press the little button on Light Meter in the morning, and it’ll show you that even though you don’t see the sun, it looks like dense cloud cover. There’ll be something like 5,000 lux of light. You’ll go inside, you’ll point the thing at a really bright, artificial light, and it’ll say 300 lux. Close the window to the outside, and it reduces it by about 50 fold. So you don’t want to do this through a window or a car window.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
And then you say, “Well, wait, you just said that there’s very little light intensity coming from artificial lights. Why is it so bad at night? I should be able to turn on every light in the house and it won’t reset.” Ah, but the clock and your eye get more sensitive as the day progresses. So you have to control it at both ends. And candlelight is fine, dim light in the evening is fine. But throughout the day, you really want to try and get some bright light exposure.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
And for many people whose schedules are just really screwed up, anchoring to these two or three things of bright light exposure and avoiding bright light in the evening hours between 11:00 PM and 4:00 AM, often not always, can really reset people’s ability. And once you’re sleeping well, everything else gets better. So that was kind of the first question you had. The other one is that I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention there are things that people can take, I’m sure you’re familiar with several of these, as well. Obviously, we have a doctor right here, so talk to a doctor. Obviously, I’m not a physician, I’m a professor, but so I don’t prescribe anything, but the three things that have made a tremendous difference…

Dr. Mark Hyman:
You just profess, you don’t prescribe.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
I profess, I don’t prescribe, that’s right. Profess lots of things. The three things that I’ve certainly benefited from, and I know a number of other people have, and for which there’s really good research, are apigenin, A P I G E N I N, which is… It’s very inexpensive, it’s chamomile extract. And it basically turns on a chloride channel mechanism in the brain. It turns off thinking. It’s kind of the equivalent of an alcoholic drink, it just turns off thinking. You could still drive on this stuff, but it makes people drowsy.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
So drink chamomile tea, or you have to take a concentrated…

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
Some people get that benefit from chamomile tea, other people like the apigenin. And the other ones are magnesium. And magnesium threonate and bisglycinate in particular, threonate spelled T H R E O N A T E. And bisglycinate I won’t spell out, but it’s sort of just as it sounds, those cross the blood brain barrier more readily, because you’re ingesting this obviously into the gut and then that magnesium needs to get into the brain. And basically, the magnesium seems to act as a precursor to GABA, the inhibitory neurotransmitter. And so for people who have a hard time turning off their thoughts, that can be very beneficial. So there’s the kind of light, which is a kind of ancient mechanism by regulating alertness and getting into sleep. And then there’s the modern thing, which is supplements.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
And there’s something sort of in between worth mentioning, which is there’s a great tool that was developed by my colleague, who’s our associate chair of psychiatry at Stanford. His name is David Spiegel, he’s actually a clinical hypnotist. He’s done a lot of work on pain management and even breast cancer outcomes from hypnosis. And he’s developed a free app that’s on Apple and on Android called Reveri, R E V E R I. It’s a 15 minute hypnosis that you do in waking, which trains the brain to sleep better. And I think that a lot of people hear hypnosis and get a little bit freaked out, but there are a lot of clinical data showing that this can help people to learn to turn off their thoughts and to relax and go to sleep. And there’s some other nice hypnosis scripts in there, as well. It’s David’s voice and he kind of walks you through it. So those are, aside from the supplements, the light, and the hypnosis are free resources that I think most everyone could benefit from.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
If I wake up in the middle of the night, oftentimes I will do one of these hypnosis scripts. And just one other thing about sleep, a lot of people wake up at 3:00 or 4:00 AM and can’t fall back asleep. I never understood why that was and then I talked to the folks in the sleep lab at Stanford, and I talked to the… Here’s probably the reason. There’s an asymmetry in this Seesaw that we all are equipped with internally, which is that we can all push on and stay awake more easily than we can just force ourselves to sleep. At some point we fall asleep, but if you’re waking up at 3:00 or 4:00 AM, unless you’re drinking too many fluids, and that’s the reason why, chances are you are running out of melatonin at that point. The levels of melatonin in your blood are dropping.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
And what it means is you stayed up too late. And you probably are one of these people that should be going to bed at 8:30 and waking up about 3:30 or 4:00 AM. And people don’t like that answer because they think “No, but I want to be the person that goes to bed at 11:00.” There are ways to shift your circadian rhythm that we could talk about, but try and go to bed one hour earlier, and chances are, you will wake up feeling better at 3:00 or 4:00 AM. Now it’s not exactly a solution, but if you’re in an argument with your spouse or something about going to bed at one hour or the next, you can leverage biology or cite this discussion.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Wow. So we really have this sleep epidemic problem, and people are struggling with figuring out how to deal with it. And your lab, and you’ve worked really a lot on how do we navigate the landscape of sleep. Because as we’re having this conversation, whatever I ask you, you keep coming back to sleep, which is fascinating to me as a foundation. And we always think diet’s the foundation, exercise is the foundation, meditation. But sleep is sort of that neglected fourth leg of the table.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
Well, and this is the thing that we’ve been encouraged to push through. And I mean, there are some elements that we could get down into the fine science of it. We sleep in 90 minute cycles, ultradian cycles, better to wake up after six hours than seven, for most people, for sake of alertness. So waking up at the end of one of these 90 minute cycles, you’re going to feel more alert than you would, say, if you slept into… Seven hours would mean you weren’t complete through your last ultradian cycle, but sleeping until 7:30 would be even better if you can. So getting the right amount of sleep, it’s a process that you want to master on average. The one, occasional all-nighter, you’ll be okay. You drank coffee too late, you’ll be fine. But on average, you want to be sleeping… Most people it’s going to be from five to eight hours a night.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
Naps in the afternoon seemed to be okay. The hypnosis script and the other things will really help people get centered around this. I think that the idea of breaking up one’s sleep, there were these crazy sleep cycles that were promoted, not to be confused with Huberman, they called it the Uberman schedule. I just want to be very clear, not Huberman schedule. There was a study that came out recently that showed that it’s incredibly detrimental to all sorts of inflammatory cytokine markers.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
You mean take a nap [inaudible 00:38:24]?

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
Oh, no. To try and sleep two hours, wake up, sleep two hours, wake up, sleep two… Around the clock. There are people that they found they could compress their total sleep time. This was kind of a Silicon Valley thing, trying to master one…

Dr. Mark Hyman:
You do have these human bodies, you’ve got to actually…

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
Yeah, you can’t conquer that. But I think sleep is vitally important. I do think that foundational diet and supplementation… And from the literature I’ve seen, I’d love your thoughts on this, the literature that impresses me the most, in terms of diet and the brain and brain states, are the studies that look at EPA, essential fatty acids, and the gut microbiome. Those are the two things that, to me, it’s undeniable. I don’t understand how anyone nowadays could even question the idea that getting proper lipid intake, these omega-threes are so important. I mean, in several double blind placebo controlled studies that I’ve read, it appears that getting 1,000 milligrams or more per day of EPA… So not just taking a 1,000 milligrams of fish oil, but making sure that you’re getting above that threshold of a 1,000 milligrams of EPA from quality sources, compares just with similar effect as SSRIs, prescription antidepressants, but without the side effects, which is incredible.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
And that if you are taking SSRIs, it allows you to take a much lower dose to still be effective. To me, incredible data. And then the other one is that ingesting fermented foods, one or two servings a day…

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Sauerkraut for the brain.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
Yeah, sauerkraut for the brain or whatever given culture. Because what I learned… And this is very new and emerging data… There’s a guy at Duke, he’s incredible, he was a nutritionist, but then he got his PhD in nutrition and now he’s a neuroscientist. His name is Diego Borges, not to be confused with the Argentine writer, Borges. He’s Ecuadorian, and he found that there are neurons in our gut of the vagas nerve, so these are neurons that live in the gut endothelium, and they sense three things. They fire electrical signals to the dopamine centers of the brain in response to fatty acids, when fats or meats and things are broken down in the fatty acids. Amino acids of other kinds, so from protein, and sugar.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
And so these neurons can easily be tricked into signaling the brain to release more dopamine, because dopamine is really the molecule of craving, into craving more of whatever activated those neurons. And so if you give these neurons enough EPA or enough amino acids, so protein and essential fatty acids, the dopamine centers of the brain are just firing like clockwork, which is going to enhance mood, motivation, energy. I mean, dopamine in proper amounts is a beautiful thing. Too high, obviously you don’t want, but you’re not going to get it too high.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Look, people don’t get addicted to chicken breasts, but they get addicted to sugar.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
Right. And I actually think that’s because these neurons seem to be responding best to particular amino acids. They seem to want glutamine, of all things. They seem to want the omega-threes. And what’s interesting is that even if they numb the taste, so that people can’t taste sugar, if people ingest sugar, these neurons fire…

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Sugar receptors in your gut.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
And they crave more sugar, even if they can’t taste the sugar. So I always thought that the dopamine released to sweet things was because it tastes so good, but the Borges lab results and some other work on dopamine more generally from my colleague, Anna Lemke at Stanford, shows that dopamine isn’t so much about pleasure. We all, including myself, were taught it’s about pleasure. Dopamine is about craving more of whatever it is triggered dopamine release.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah. Whether it’s heroin or cocaine or sugar.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
And so these neurons that trigger dopamine release, they are powerfully affected by these quality omega-threes and by amino acids. And then what’s really interesting is that they trigger the release of dopamine, but then you say, “Well, okay, that should be pretty simple.” Like you said, people don’t get addicted to chicken breasts. And I wonder whether or not that’s either because omega-threes are too low, so the full concert of these neurons is inactive. Or it could be that for some reason, the other things that people are ingesting has messed up these neurons, and so the whole brain-body relationship is disrupted. And I guess Robert Lustig is his name at UCF, and others are now showing that some of the emulsifiers and foods and other things like that, what they do to the gut endothelium… I never really understood how the gut-brain thing worked, but what I realized is that these microbiota, they don’t care about us. What they do is they’re trying to find conditions in the gut where the pH of the mucus is just right.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
And that if people ingest emulsifiers and sugars, what happens is these neurons, and Borges’ lab has shown this, that these neurons that are in the gut endothelium and can sense amino acids and can sense essential fatty acids, they actually start to retract their processes into the deeper layers of the gut. In other words, if you ingest the wrong things, pretty soon, the neurons in the gut remodel the bad kind of neuro-plasticity and you lose your gut-brain sensing system. And so it’s not just a matter of giving it the right things, for many people, it’s going to be about repairing this system and allowing this portion of our nervous system to grow back. Now, the nice thing about peripheral neurons is that they grow back.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Wait, wait. I got to unpack that because what you said was just so profound right there. Basically, you’re talking about uncoupling the natural ability of our body to sense its environment and to self-regulate in the right way to create health. When we eat processed food that contains ingredients that screw up the gut microbiome or the lining, and all of a sudden the brain in the gut, or whatever you want to call it, the neurons in the gut start to change as a result of the crappy food we’re eating and make us less able to seek out and want the foods that are good for us and tend to make us seek out and want the foods that are bad for us.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
Exactly.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
That is a massive brain state shift for me, because I never really understood the mechanics of how that happens, but it’s clearly true when people are eating bad foods, they want more bad foods and they keep eating more and more of them. And there are many reasons for that, but the gut story is just fascinating.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
Yeah. And really, I tip my hat to the Borges lab. It’s cool. Science, as you know, can get really entrenched and that someone comes from a completely different perspective of his background in nutrition. Actually, it’s a relevant story here. He had a friend, she was very overweight and she ended up having a gastric bypass surgery. And she lost a lot of weight and her diabetes went away. But she also started craving runny eggs. But previously, just the thought of runny eggs made her nauseous, made her want to vomit. And he heard that story and he realized that cravings themselves are modified by the conditions of the gut. How could this be? So he started exploring what are these neurons in the gut? What brain areas are they talking…
PART 2 OF 4 ENDS [00:46:04]

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
It exploring what are these neurons in the gut? Who are they? What brain areas are they talking to? It’s very clear that these neurons, they innovate the gut. They’re part of the vagus nerve, connect to the brain areas that release dopamine and create craving. And so the health of these neurons in your gut is strongly going to impact what you want. What I love about the literature and I haven’t had anything to do with the research I’m describing, but I’ve spent a lot of time with that work. What I love about the work that he’s doing and others are doing is that it really points to A, the brain body connection is mediated by neurons. B, that what we crave and what we seek really can change. I think there-

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yes.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
…. are a lot of people that are having a hard time shifting towards a healthier eating or healthier relationship to light. So we talked about a few moments ago. It starts becoming reflexive not just it’s better for us, but because our nervous system actually remodels itself in ways where the good stimulus starts to evoke dopamine release.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah. I find that for so true. If I go off track, I just want more of the bad stuff. If I stay on track, I want more of the good stuff. Like I naturally will crave the things that are good for me. But I think what’s happened through our radical dietary changes is we’ve gotten so far away from our natural sort of ability to seek out things that nourish us, and we’ve lost that.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Animals have that. They’re not going to be running around eating things that are going to make them sick and gain weight and cause damage to their gut microbiome or whatever. But they’re not thinking about it. Their body naturally will seek out, oh, I want this plant because it’s got this nutrition in, or this one has this photochemical. They’re not thinking that, but their body is telling them where to go, where to look and what to eat. We’ve sort of really decoupled our ability to be in touch with our natural healthy cravings, and it been hijacked by the food industry to desire all these foods that are driving us into worse and worse states of dysfunction, poor health and poor brain states and poor brains function.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
Yeah. It’s interesting because the discussion about light and discussion about food are remarkably similar from the perspective of these neurons in our eye they don’t think. They’ll respond to light at 1:00 AM when you’re watching Netflix just as well as they’ll respond to sunlight because of their sensitivity at that time of night. They don’t care. They will work for you or their work against you. They don’t have a mind of their own. They’re just cells. The cells in your gut are the same. And so I think that what’s exciting as the more and more of the neuroscience and emerges, and these other fields like nutrition start to really infiltrate neuroscience and in a positive way. We’re starting to realize that giving the brain and the body the proper stimulus, and there is a proper stimulus, there is a right time of day to get sunlight and light in your eyes, and there’s a wrong time of day.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
There’s a right time of… There’s a right set of nutrients, amino acids, and fatty acids are what your body really craves, but we’ve been giving it decoys, right? Sugar is a decoy. It really is a decoy. These neurons unfortunately respond to sugar, connect to the dopamine centers of the brain. And as I mentioned before, even if we don’t taste the sugars, they’re triggering these mechanisms. So I think that neurons are both beautiful and, remarkable, but they’re also dumb. They’ll send these signals to your brain to a variety of things that you give it. So you want to know what is the proper input? Like, what do I need to give these neurons? When do I need to give it sunlight, or amino acids, essential fatty acids, because that’s really what we crave. There’s no essential carbohydrates and I’m not an anti carbohydrate person. I eat starches. I actually find them very useful for falling asleep at night.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yes.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
They really help.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Well, it’s only what to eat, is what to eat when, right?

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
Right.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
We’re totally flipped in this country. We eat all of our sugar and starch and carbs in the morning.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
Right.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Not so much at night.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
I tend to do the opposite. I’ll fast in the early part of the day, and then I eat meat and vegetables throughout the day and then starches at night. That’s just what works from a neurotransmitter perspective to be alert and then asleep. The other thing I realized the other day is that it’s weird because really healthy, clean proteins tastes better than dirty proteins, but really healthy clean carbohydrates it takes… They don’t taste. They’re not as intuitively tasty as like chips and things like that.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Like what?

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
Well, I feel like a really good… I eat meat, so a really good steak tastes delicious. A lousy steak or like beef jerky is never as good as a steak. Whereas a bowl of white rice is like, maybe it’s just the way I cook it, is not as tasty as a bag of potato chips, right?

Dr. Mark Hyman:
It’s easy for me. I’d much rather eat a sweet potato-

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
Okay.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
…. than a bag of potato chips.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
Yeah. I probably need to up my culinary game.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Like, I mean that-

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
You know that?

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah. I mean, it’s Interesting we think we sort of willfully want this or that food. I know I’m wanting this, but it’s actually, our brains have sort of take over because we’ve not been treating them properly and we’re craving all the wrong things and we’re not craving the right things.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
Absolutely.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
I’ve said that before, like when I walk by, for example, like a Starbucks display and I see all the muffins or anywhere, like any, and a croissant, it just doesn’t look like food to me.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
That [crosstalk 00:51:13] stuff is lost. It’s like-

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Like, why would I eat that rock? Like, [crosstalk 00:51:16].

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
That stuff has lost its appeal to me as well. One thing that’s relevant here that I think actually is useful knowledge. My colleague, Anna Lembke, who’s a psychiatrist studies dopamine and craving. She explained something to me that it makes sense when you hear it, but it’s not intuitive before that, which is if you’ve ever tasted like a delicious piece of chocolate or you had a delicious experience, I’ll let people use their own mind to that or something really, really wonderful that you love, the sensation in your mind is not one of pleasure. Believe it or not.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
What it is it?

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
It’s a sensation of craving more. You can do this if you’re a chocolate lover, I don’t want to send people on a chocolate binge.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
No, I can eat too much chocolate to a point which I’m like, I’m all for this.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
Sure. But absolutely. There’s a point where you hit a threshold, but dopamine, we know this from the animal studies and human studies, what dope…. And this is one of the reasons it can create addictions in its extreme form is that pleasure and pain have this reciprocal relationship. When you eat something that tastes really delicious, if you just insert your mind into the process for a second, unless you’re being very mindful and really kind of doing the Buddhist thing of really just tasting it, the way dopamine release works is it makes you think about the next bite. And this is true. Imagine any experience, oftentimes it’s not just about the presence of the thing you’re in, unless you’ve done a lot of conscious work around experiencing pleasure and all it’s like immediate container.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Right.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
This is what I mean, this is why people gamble. This is why people eat more sugar. This is why people get addicted to anything. I mention it because when the first time I heard it, I thought, no, that’s not true. I really love this experience or this thing. But then I started to pay attention, start to realize that oftentimes our mind goes to yes, and more please. Yes, and more please, as opposed to just and that’s dopamine release in full form.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Right.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
Dopamine releases a little bit of like a jet pack that gets attached to us that puts us toward a destination and dopamine isn’t bad. But I think once people understand the nature of craving, they can be in a position to maneuver around it better.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
So you’re speaking really about how do we play with our brains in a different way than we thought about, and you talk about this idea of neuro-plasticity, which I’d like to sort of jump into a little bit. Even the brain we… What I learned in medical school was that you were born with a certain number of brain cells and that’s all you get. If you have used up too many in college by staying up all night or doing drugs or partying too hard, well tough, that’s all you got, but it turns out that’s just not true.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
That’s not true.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
That we have tremendous ability to restore brain function, to bring back all sorts of things at any age that we just didn’t think possible. I just… I had a patient who was 70 ish year old guy who had a stroke and was paralyzed on one side. Traditional care is like, just do rehab and take your blood thinners and cross your fingers and hope for the best. I’m like, “Hell, no.” We know a lot about how to optimize brain function. So I put him on a ketogenic diet which helps the brain repair and heal. I had him do hyperbaric oxygen therapy. I had him do IV nutritional therapies like NAD which helps the tissues and cells and the brain repair. It’s helps the energy cycle. I had him take a number of supplements that help with inflammation, mitochondria, and I had him do exercise. A whole cocktail of things because it’s not any one thing that’s going to make a difference.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
Right.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Even I had him do sort of derivatives of stem cells and things like exosomes. It’s unbelievable to see how much he’s been able to recover and repair from what we would have thought in medical school. When I was going to medical school is a permanent disability and now he’s not disabled. He’s walking.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
It’s amazing.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
He’s using his body, he’s doing things. He’s come back. It’s not 100% yet, but it just compared to what we imagine was possible, we’re seeing things we never thought possible. Like whether it’s reversing Alzheimer’s or autism, strokes, trauma, brain trauma. Even, even things like depression, anxiety, PTSD, we’re seeing all sorts of doorways into repairing them. The psychedelic therapies that are being used now, or MDME therapies for trauma and for PTSD are changing the way we think about accessing the brain. It’s like how does that even make sense that you take one therapy of Psilocybin and all of a sudden lifelong symptoms are gone and depression.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
It’s wild, right?

Dr. Mark Hyman:
It’s pretty wild.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
It’s wild.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Because we just say, “Oh, you need 30 years of therapy and psychoanalysis five times a week.” And nope, just go on the seven hour journey with a therapist and a guided experience and something shifts in your brain.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
The data coming out of Hopkins are really impressive. I think we’re going to look back the work of Matthew Johnson and some of the other groups in the UK and the Maps groups. I know less about the Maps groups, and I think we’re going to realize that, yeah, they are true pioneers and it’s a topic for another discussion perhaps, but what they’ve had to go through in order to bring credibility to this area has been really incredible. So neuroplasticity is real, the brain’s ability to change itself in response to experience for better or for worse. I think that most of the discussion about plasticity is going to be what I call adapt. We don’t have to get too much lingo, but adaptive plasticity is the stuff we want and plasticity after a head injury or from chronic illnesses that kind of plasticity, we don’t want.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
No.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
But if we say plasticity, it’s almost always neuroplasticity of the type we want. I think that the way to think about neuroplasticity is that early in life, our brain is extremely plastic. Our brain is basically designed to wire itself up from about birth until age 25, which is not to say we don’t need guidance from parents and peers, et cetera, but that the brain is trying to create a map of its experience so that it can move forward from that point. There are areas of the brain that are not very plastic and we should all be grateful for that. Areas like the areas of the brain that control your heartbeat, your respiration, to make sure your gut continues to churn food along. Like, all the kind of basic stuff, the housekeeping stuff. But the rest of it, we’re discovering is extremely plastic. From age zero, until age 25, just mere passive experience, exposure to things, your brain will change, creates a map for better or for worse. Now, if people have traumas in that time or you-

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Conditioning. It’s like [crosstalk 00:58:05].

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
Yeah, conditioning. There are ways to undo that. That all starts usually around age 25, people… Maybe earlier, but you know the skills you learn how to walk, et cetera, all that’s laid down early in life. But from 25 on, I want to draw a distinction because from 25 on or so. 25 or so until the end of life, the brain is still very plastic, but the requirements for changing the brain shift radically.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah, talk about that.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
The way to think about this is that the adult brain has no reason to change, unless it has a shift internally that says what you’re about to experience or what you just experienced is meaningful enough that you got to change. Okay. Now the negative stuff as always provides the most salient examples of like a car crash. You’ll never forget that. Where I was when I first learned about 9/11, when the shuttle exploded. One trial learning immediate brain change is always going to happen for negative events, more readily than it is for positive events. I am sorry that’s just the way we’re wired. There’s an asymmetry there. It’s designed to keep us safe.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Keep us out of danger, right?

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
Keep us out of danger. We should be grateful for that. But adding new skills, changing our emotionality, even changing personality, it seems to some degree can be accomplished. If certain chemicals are liberated into the brain and, or body and the chemicals that cue the nervous system, aha, I need to change something basically fall into two category, and they are Adrenaline, Epinephrine and Acetylcholine. So Acetylcholine, we could start with that. Acetylcholine is released from multiple sites within the brain. It’s actually the neurotransmitter that allows us to… It’s responsible for nerve muscle communication.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Memory too.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
Memory. There are two main sites in the brain that release Acetylcholine. One is in the back of the brain and the brain stem and it triggers alertness. It also acts sort of a spotlight on certain areas of the brain saying, ah, whatever is active right now, I’m going to mark that for change later. I’m going to make those connections stronger. It’s just the nature of the sort of like a sprinkler system. It’s more general, but it’s kind of in the vicinity of I want to learn. You just mentioned that you learned Chinese. So let’s say I don’t speak any second language, really. Let’s say I wanted to learn Mandarin. If I were to go in and try and learn Mandarin, it would be very, very challenging for me. So I need to focus. We know that early in life you can assimilate new knowledge without having to focus too much.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Which is amazing.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
Which is amazing. But that’s because whole brain is basically bathing in Acetylcholine. It’s you know it-

Dr. Mark Hyman:
It’s like I see these little kids.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
Youth is lost [crosstalk 01:01:00].

Dr. Mark Hyman:
[inaudible 01:01:00].

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
Exactly.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Three or four year old kids speaking three languages. I’m like, what the heck?

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
Exactly.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
You know like.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
Younger people always ask me, what should I do if I’m not 25 [inaudible 01:01:08]. Here’s what you should do. Don’t even check with your parents, learn a second or third language. You’ll thank me later. Learn a musical instrument. You’ll thank me later. For many reasons, I didn’t do either of these two things by the way, and develop good habits around health and nutrition and learning. You are basically, you’re pretty much home free.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Okay.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
Those are the things that you’re good. You have this gift of plasticity. It’s just et cetera. So as an adult, you need Acetylcholine released also from this area of the forebrain called Nucleus basalis. There’s a connection, a collection, excuse me, of neurons in the basal forebrain that when those become activated, essentially anything that you experience in the time window around that can be rewired. And these are incredible experiments that were done by Mike Merzenich at UCSF and colleagues where they would stimulate Nucleus basalis and then provide some sensory experience. The brain would just remap within seconds. Now the problem is getting basalis to release acetylcholine is challenging.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Well, how do we do that?

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
So it comes from powers of focus. You have to be able to contract your visual window or your auditory window, whatever your attentional window is. You have to be able to bring a lot of focus to that learning event or life event. Now if you think about negative life events, you can realize why we learn them so readily because they bring about our entire focus, right? I’ll never forget seeing those planes hit the towers in New York.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Right.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
So I wasn’t focused on anything else.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
For sure.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
I can see it in my mind’s eye now still, and I probably don’t have all the details, right? But that’s the level of focus you need to bring to something that you want to learn as an adult. Now, there are things that can facilitate as we call it Cholinergic transmission. First of all, there needs to be a baseline level of alertness. That level of alertness is going to come from Epinephrine, from Adrenaline. So there is no learning without a sense of agitation and focus. I think most people think, “Oh, I’m just going to calmly go into this and I’m going to learn Mandarin or whatever.” No, it actually requires us a little bit of that leaning forward in the chair. This is now your agitation, and your-

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Right, that’s true.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
Your knee bumping mark makes sense. Because you are that guy and you’re rich with knowledge.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
So that’s the way I saw in medical school because I was [crosstalk 01:03:21]-

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
That’s Epinephrine. That’s Epinephrine. That’s Epinephrine. And so you set the stage for that by getting-

Dr. Mark Hyman:
It worked. It worked.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
By getting good sleep, and by being excited and motivated. You know, the phenomenon of meeting someone, and then you forget their name a second later you were focused on something else. We all do it. I’m terrible about that too. But when you meet somebody that you’re very interested in, let’s be honest you don’t forget their name.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
No.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
It just locks in and you never forget. You never forget the details. So focus and agitation and alertness, they work together because when Acetylcholine and Epinephrine are liberated in the brain and body together, it basically signals to the nervous system, okay. I need to rewire things so that I don’t have to deploy all these resources in the future, right?

Dr. Mark Hyman:
So if we want to improve our brain function and prove our learning, our memory, alertness attention, that’s what people care about. And we want to enhance the neuro-plasticity, what are the top things that we should be?

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
Okay. So get the foundational stuff, right?

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Sleep, sleep, sleep.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
Sleep, get your nutrition right, and in fact there are many things in you, you speak to this in much more detail and sophistication than I ever could. But I-

Dr. Mark Hyman:
[crosstalk 01:04:27].

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
…. think that you said I think the omega… What do you say?

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Follow the pegan diet. I jokingly will call it.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
Pegan not vegan.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
I’m not Pegan. I’m not a vegan.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
So, follow… Get sleep, right. Get your nutrition, right. Get your relationship to stress right. We can talk about that maybe at the end, but basically you need Cholinergic transmission and the thing you need sufficient Choline available. We know that Choline is going to come from meat sources-

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Liver.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
…. nut sources.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Eggs.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
Now, some… Eggs, certain fish.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Sardines.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
Sardines. So these. You need Choline available. Now you can’t just ingest those things and expect to get smarter. People always say, “Tell me what to eat to get smarter.”

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Now sardines, you’re going to get a long way.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
You have to engage in those focus learning.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Marine friends, we have bad breath, but otherwise.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
You have to engage in those focused learning bouts. You have to decide what it is that you want to learn, what you want to change and do that. Now for some people they say, “Well, I don’t want to learn another language. I just want to feel happier.” But that’s actually, as we know a process as well. That’s going to be a process of leaning into some gratitude practice or some maybe if what makes you happy as a physical activity, it’s going to be bringing the greatest amount of attention and alertness to that practice as you possibly can. There’s a lot of literature now pointing in the fact that what we sometimes call flow or flow states or getting lost in the beauty of some experience, or often involves a bit of challenge. It involves a sense of focus and your focus will drift and continually bringing that back. Now from a supplementation side, the data on Alpha GPC are pretty impressive to my mind.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
That’s Glycerylphosphorylcholine which is a derivative of Choline for people listening.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
People… I mean, again, I’m not a physician, so I can’t prescribe anything, but the data on anywhere from 300 to 900 milligrams of Alpha GPC before a learning bout, it’s clear that cognitive function goes up. It’s clear that people remember more, it’s clear that people retain more of that information. So there’s the encoding part, which is the part in which you’re packing in the new knowledge, and that requires high levels of alertness and focus. If it’s… That’s can be supported by this nutritional perhaps supplementation background.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
Then there’s a second step. The second step is the one that in recent years, we’ve learned the most about, which is that just having this heightened level of focus and attention to what you’re trying to learn or change is just the first step. The second thing is to actually turn off focus and put the brain into a state where it can rewire more rapidly. And there’s a beautiful study that was published in Cell Reports is a fine journal last year, showing that if people go into a kind of a pseudo nap or they intentionally move away from any kind of focus for 20 minutes or so after an intense learning bout, that the brain rewires more quickly, and they’re heightened levels of retention, the brain just rewires in these states of relaxation. So it’s just sort of like physical fitness. You don’t actually get better during the effort, you get better during the recovery.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
That must be why I did so good in neuroscience because I was reading that Ken Dell book and I remembered being in the library in medical school [inaudible 01:07:47]. I would like go.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
Exactly.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
I would put my hand on the book.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
Exactly. Then wake up and keep reading?

Dr. Mark Hyman:
I’m like, oh, okay [inaudible 01:07:53].

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
That book is a beast. No disrespect to Eric, because I think that’s a beautiful book.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Oh, it’s beautiful [crosstalk 01:07:59].

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
But there’s now a shorter one called Principles of Neurobiology by somebody else that is a little bit… But it’s still pretty intense.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Oh, I love that.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
It’s a lot of knowledge.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
That was my favorite book in medical school.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
Yeah, it’s a beautiful book too. It’s a big, it’s can hold the door open. It’s so big. But so you need these bouts of relaxation afterwards. Those can come from naps. Now for people that want a kind of accelerate the process, they’re like, “Wait, I don’t want to do the stimulus, and then the relaxation. I want to accelerate.” There is a way that you can learn more quickly, and that brings us back to hypnosis. Hypnosis is a very odd state of mind because it’s a state of mind where you both have heightened states of focus and relaxation at the same time. It’s what I call an atypical state. Normally we’re either very alert or very calm, right? A nap is very calm, focus learning is very alert. Stress is very alert. Obviously sleep is very calm, but in hypnosis, the whole purpose is to bring the brain and body into a state of deep relaxation while maintaining awareness.
PART 3 OF 4 ENDS [01:09:04]

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
Body into a state of deep relaxation while maintaining awareness. I think deep forms of meditation do this also. You can leverage those states as a way to accelerate plasticity.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
So meditation-

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
So meditation, the Reverie app for hypnosis is great. Some people, including myself, have trouble with meditation because the mind tends to drift. Sometimes hearing a script or something that can keep you oriented towards something, a metronome or a hypnosis script can be useful. And this all might sound like a ton of hard work, but actually, the best learning bouts are going to be anywhere from about 30 minutes to 90 minutes. You don’t really want to hammer on something five, six hours a day. I teach medical students. Medical school is the worst form of learning.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Too late. Too late. I mean-

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
Too late. But it’s interesting cause I look at the way medical students who have phenomenal minds, obviously. I have so much respect for physicians. The way that you guys learn was essentially to come in there and say, “I’m going to extract the critical knowledge.” So it’s like these spotlights that come on when something’s really important. It’s not 90 minutes of content blitz. It’s like you guys learn how to really extract the right information.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Not intentionally, but I think I kind of biohacked my way through medical school because I lived four miles away from the campus and I didn’t have a car. And so I would run to school every morning. Was four miles, and any weather.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
And where was it?

Dr. Mark Hyman:
In Ottawa, which by the way, I ran to my nutritional bio… No, my biochemistry exam, my first year, it was 37 degrees below zero without the windshield factor. I literally had-

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
Canadians are tough.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
… my face racked up. I got there. My eyelids were crusted shut. So I was kind of alert when I got to school. And then I would kind of stretch and do a little yoga in the back and then I would run home. And I really hyper-focused all day in class and I made sure I was sitting in the front. I was fidgeting all the time. So I was probably stimulating my whatever.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
Yeah. You’re dry.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
And I did not leave that classroom until I understood everything. And then I would run four miles back home. I do an hour of yoga. I make myself a healthy dinner. And then I would sit in the chair for four hours until 11 and just go to bed. And I would do that day after day after day.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
So you just described perfect neuroplasticity regimen, really-

Dr. Mark Hyman:
I majored in Buddhism and I graduated the top of my class, and I just… It was kind of a joke because I really wasn’t into science at all when I was in college.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
Toggling back and forth between these highly alert states and these deeply relaxed states is the secret sauce, if you will, of neuroplasticity as an adult.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
But what you’re talking about is… I would call it innercise, right? We know how to exercise, but we don’t know how to access these different techniques that help our brain function better. And it’s just a shame because most of us are not connecting what we eat to how we feel, our sleep to how we feel, or whether we’re exercising around how we feel. My daughter came to visit me. She was really going crazy just studying for medical school. She was in premed and she’s sort of this older student, and COVID was very isolating with no social contact. She was sleeping and all she did was study and she got into medical school.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
That’s great. She’s going to become a physician?

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
Wonderful.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
But she really neglected this self-care and got super physiologically depressed. And what was sort of amazing, we sort of identified what was going on with her and she didn’t even make the connection. And then within a few days of just changing her diet, exercising, she literally transformed her whole mood and wellbeing and the depression just went away.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
Yeah. We reward performance and productivity and there will always be people that are willing to burn themselves, including their health, on the alter of whatever it is they’re trying to do. And it shifts the culture. I mean, I don’t follow tennis, but we saw this recent thing, a woman who is a top tennis player. Forgive me for not remembering her name. Yeah. She stepped away from the tournament deciding that she needed to take care of herself. I think it’s great. I think that self-care of course can be taken too far in the other direction too. We have to appreciate and understand that any learning, any competition, anything like that is going to involve some adrenaline release in our body.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
But I think if we could all become better at surfing the seesaw, so to speak, then it becomes an issue of, “Okay, there’s a 30 minute break between classes. Are you talking about the exam with your friends or are you relaxing under a tree and resetting your mind?” That’s a key question. Are you the person who shows up to the conference and is at every talk feeling like you need to be at every talk and you’re going out for dinner and drinks and then expected to be in the front row the next morning and performing?

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Your FOMO.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
When you start looking at things from a optimal… When you start looking at your life, whatever that life happens to be from what’s going to optimize my performance, which includes relationships, of course, as well, then the whole game changes because it really becomes an issue of how good are any one of us, are each of us, at regulating the seesaw. And if you are spending too much time at one end of the seesaw, you’re headed for trouble. That’s just the way it is. Now sleep, most of us probably don’t get enough sleep, but I think that can be overdone too. I think that many people feel exhausted because the systems for engagement of the mind and engagement of the body are also a bit atrophied.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah. And that’s the thing. We don’t learn those skills and tools. So do people start to begin to learn those tools to enhance their neuroplasticity, to do the things we talked to through the practical suggestions about sleep? But is there a way? Because one of the things that terrifies me is the effect of technology on the brain. And I just came back from a week vacation in Mexico and we were off-grid. No phone, cell phone, computer. Nothing works. And you were in nature. Didn’t even know what time was. Didn’t watch. And my sense of wellbeing, my happiness, my focus was so different. And you talk about this phenomenon of a digital concussion from phones, computers, social media. And I felt that. Literally, your brain hurts.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
ADD, the incidents of diagnosable ADD, ADHD is going up in adults and in kids. I think, well, there’s ideal and then there’s reasonable and practical, right? I mean, I do think vacations and resets are great, I think, just like going camping can reset your circadian clocks and melatonin and cortisol. I think from a very practical, low or no-cost perspective, one of the things that one can do is ask, “Okay, if attention and focus are required for neuroplasticity throughout the lifespan, what can I do to increase my levels of attention and focus?” And there’s some interesting data on this. First of all, learn to read one chapter of a book without your phone in the room. Just a physical book, not an audio book, necessarily. Learn to read one chapter of a book per day.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Can it be a Kindle book or an actual book.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
It could be a Kindle book. Sure. Written word and handwriting and reading are baked into our DNA. There’s no question. I mean, sure, we were drawing on cave walls a long time ago, but we were drawing on cave walls. And when we evolved language, there are areas of the brain responsible for speech and language and for digesting speech and language and producing speech and language, of course. So this is something I struggle with as much as anybody, but if you’re not a reader, still do it, learning to read one chapter of a book. And your mind will drift. People will, “Wait. This isn’t engaging,” or, “My mind drifted,” or something. And that’s revealing to you your powers of attention, of deliberate attention.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah. The lack thereof.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
It’s revealing your ability to engage nucleus basalis. So if you want to take a test of how well or poorly you can pay attention, well, read one chapter of a book per day. So that’s a wonderful practice that will improve the circuits for attention. So this is one of the cool things about neuroplasticity is it’s not just about learning the information. It’s about learning and teaching the circuits for attention to get better at attention. So you can get better at attention as an action step, and that will allow you to learn more things. So [crosstalk 01:17:45]-

Dr. Mark Hyman:
If you want to lift weights, you have to start a little bit and keep going. So you want to read one chapter, then you can read a book.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
That’s right. What’s really interesting about the relationship between acetylcholine and epinephrine is pretty soon, it starts to recruit the dopamine system. It starts feeling good to move through that agitation and you start realizing, “Okay, I’m doing this. I’m doing this.” And then your mind will flip off and you’ll go back to reading and that sort of thing.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
What really works for me is when I have a deadline.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
So deadlines are great.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
It’s like I can write a book in three weeks.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
And the reason deadlines are so active is because they deploy epinephrine. It’s baked into your psyche that there are some social pressures of being… You want to perform well. You want to know the material. You don’t want to make mistakes, et cetera. So adrenaline is released. And once adrenaline is released, then acetylcholine naturally will follow. You tighten your focus. So reading one chapter of a book, whatever that happens to be, per day is absolutely critical to maintaining one’s ability to focus and therefore one’s ability to engage neuroplasticity. You’ll also learn your chapter-

Dr. Mark Hyman:
[crosstalk 01:18:48] read a chapter.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
Read a chapter. We talked about all the foundational stuff of sleep and microbiome and all that earlier.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Light.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
Yeah. The other one is to really respect these 90-minute learning cycles. Don’t try and throw yourself into a deep immersion of four hours of learning of something. Ratchet up to being able to do 90 minutes of focused work. An ideal goal would be two 90-minute blocks of learning per day, but that’s a lot. So if you’re somebody who wants to keep your brain sharp, read a chapter a day and then decide what it is that you want to learn. Curiosity. What’s that old saying? I think it was… Is it Dorothy Parker? The anecdote for boredom is curiosity. There’s no anecdote for curiosity. Or something like that.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Right. Yeah.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
The best way to engage the mind is to actually be curious about something. So simply saying, “I want to keep my brain young,” that’s a terrific mindset. But then the question is, what is it that you really want to know? So if it’s about fitness or it’s about health or it’s about language or something that-

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Learning Mandarin.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
If it’s murder mysteries even, something that engages your mind. I would hope that it wouldn’t be something morbid or something like that, but something that engages your mind, that’s going to be important to do for 90 minutes, and ideally, two 90-minute learning cycles per day.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
And you might say, “Well, I don’t have time for that. People are wasting far more time than that. So those are some dos. And then of course, if you really want to move things into the optimization realm, it is true… I don’t want people just relying on pharmacology, but it is true that if you take 300 milligrams or 600 milligrams, which is a lot actually of the Alpha-GPC, you will be like a laser for those 90 minutes. You’ll feel really focused. Now, a lot of people nowadays are taking Adderall, Modafinil, things like that. I personally… I mean, you’re the physician, but I personally find that relying on what are essentially amphetamines in order to tighten the focus of the mind is a very slippery slope because what it does is it tightens up that hinge on that seesaw on the alertness side. And then there’s a crash to the other side.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
And there are clinical uses obviously, but I don’t think those are the best way to go. In terms of nootropics, drugs that make us smarter, the only thing that really speaks to improve brain function for learning that I’ve seen besides the foundational stuff are Alpha-GPC and creatine. Creatine gives the brain a boost, it seems, because it increases the availability of lactate, which the brain can use as fuel. Some people, of course, like the ketone thing or ketogenic diet for focus. The other thing is that fasting and ketosis will increase focus. If you’re somebody who is falling asleep while trying to learn and you’re sleeping enough at night, chances are you’re not releasing enough acetylcholine and epinephrine into your system, and fasted states promote that. And ketogenic states promote that. Carbohydrates flip on the other switch, which is for serotonin and for sleepiness.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
So if you’re falling asleep… We were all taught that you have to eat a good breakfast and you need food for energy. Actually, I realized you don’t really need food for energy. You need-

Dr. Mark Hyman:
[crosstalk 01:22:02]-

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
You need neurotransmitters for focus and energy. And so eating to support those. There are other things that… If it’s a physical skill that you’re trying to learn, as opposed to just a mental skill, then there’s a whole kingdom of things that are fun. For instance, if it’s a physical skill, you want to generate as many repetitions as you safely can per unit time. So if you say, “I’m going to learn dance,” you want to-

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Use a ball machine if you’re playing tennis.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
Exactly. You literally want to generate repetitions. And in particular, you want to generate failures. Every time you give up bad serve playing tennis, that activates the circuits for focus and alertness for the next attempt.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah. It’s true.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
That’s right.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Especially when you’re losing.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
That’s right. And a lot of people don’t like failures, and so they back away from it. So remember, the nervous system will only change if you give it a reason to do that. And the other one that’s kind of an interesting twist on this is the way the nervous system is wired is it wants to pass off all of its work to circuits that are reflexive as much as it can. You don’t think about walking anymore because you learned how to walk. But when you were learning, you were very focused on it.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
One of the things that can set the stage for more plasticity overall is when you disrupt the vestibular or the balance system. It does appear that whenever we are physically off-balance, the brain is primed to pay attention and the chemical milieu is such that it can actually rewire itself faster. And whereas I think the ’90s and 2000s brought out a lot of important work on saying, “Hey, exercise of aerobic type, or maybe even weight training can create neuroplasticity,” that was great, but it wasn’t directed enough. It didn’t say, “Well, what kind of exercise? And what will get me even more plasticity?” And so there are some basal things about heart rate and blood flow, et cetera, but anything that involves balance or coordination, it’s incredible how fast the brain can learn.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
So things like dance, martial arts, a real sport, not just exercising… And no disrespect to the… I’m more of a just an exerciser than a sport guy. But if you’re 40, 50, 60, 80, whatever, learning a new physical skill we know is tremendously powerful for opening up neuroplasticity broadly. So some people will even leverage this where after they finish some physical skill learning or something, they might take a 20 minute nap, and then they might read or they might try something. So when we see these people [crosstalk 01:24:34]-

Dr. Mark Hyman:
I’ve been learning surfing. I’m 60 years old learning surfing.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
Perfect. The vestibular-

Dr. Mark Hyman:
I started learning tennis when I was 45. And it’s really a challenge because it’s not automatic and I have to really focus and be present.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
And these individual cases are not necessarily the place to hang our hat completely. But for instance, the great physicist Richard Feynman, he was well-known for learning bongo drums when he was in… It was in the ’60s, but in his 60s. Then he became a quite accomplished painter later in life. And his whole thing was approach all of these things from a standpoint of play with intense focus. And I think the play element is key because the play element keeps the agitation in check so that when you’re stepping on your partner’s feet trying to learn how to dance or you’re failing miserably, it can… Frustration is a real thing. And so I think that the element of playfulness, some people call it beginner’s mind, but I think that should be the anchor point to return to.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
And people that maintain curiosity, or I should say that cultivate curiosity, and that cultivate a sense of play and willingness to take on new vestibular experiences, of all things, they show show remarkable plasticity into their late life. And I think that it all comes back to this thing that the brain won’t change unless something changes in the weather of the brain. The overall milieu has to say, “Oh, wait. Everything that’s about to happen is different.” Otherwise, why would it change?

Dr. Mark Hyman:
This whole conversation is so great because it really is pointing out the fact that we have the ability to change our brains at any time at any age, and that there are pathways and doorways and techniques and tools that help us do that. And if we do that, we’re going to be happier, healthier, enjoy life more, be able to do whatever we want and actually be able to actually maybe even live longer.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
Absolutely. And the system of round emotionality also has neuroplasticity. Again, unless it’s these very deep structures controlling really what we call vegetative functions like how much saliva we make or something… And even those, the Pavlovian thing can change. But for instance, people who are depressed, they need various forms help. But the self-directed help that can be useful is when people pay more attention, even if it’s just a subtle or tiny shard of their experience, when they pay more attention to something that brings them a sense of happiness or gratitude or wellbeing, those circuits can rewire. The circuits for emotionality can shift and change.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
And the studies of personality across the lifespan have shown that we are not necessarily the same people we were in our 20s as we are in our 30s. The old version of it was that we’re all basically the same person, just kind of aging out and then fading out. But it’s very clear that we’ve been endowed with this amazing capacity for self-reflection. And if we can leverage the right tools, so meaning focus and alertness and attention followed by rest on a repeated basis, these neural circuits rewire. And that’s true for the neural circuits in our head, and it’s true for the neural circuits in our bodies.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
It seems like just the beginning of the conversation. We’re coming to the end. This is such an inspiring conversation because it’s empowering us with the knowledge that we can actually change our brains and we don’t have to be victim to the psychological, emotional, or cognitive states that we have. And your work is just such a leading light in all of this. I encourage everybody to check out Andrew’s work at hubermanlab.com. It’s his podcast, website. Check out his podcast. It’s really good. If you want to really dive deep into these topics, get an understanding of it, check out some of his work at Stanford. You can go to hubermanlab.stanford.edu and learn more about the work he’s doing there.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
And I’m just so excited by this potential for us to really deeply dive into the new frontier of the brain in ways that we haven’t before and understand the way the body affects the brain and people can really change your life. Because the quality of your brain determines the quality of your life, right? I mean, you can be a little overweight or whatever, maybe have a knee replacement or stroke, but if your brain isn’t working in the way you want, you’re not going to be able to have a great life.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
Yeah. The mindset, whatever the mind happens to be is definitely the major lever.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
That’s true. Well, thank you so much for being on The Doctor’s Farmacy. Everybody, if you love this podcast, please share with your friends and family on social media. Leave a comment. Have you fixed your brain? And maybe what did you do to your body to fix your brain? And also subscribe wherever you get your podcasts. And we’ll see you next time on The Doctor’s Farmacy.

Dr. Andrew Huberman:
Thanks for having me on.
Speaker 1:
Hi everyone. I hope you enjoyed this week’s episode. Just a reminder that this podcast is for educational purposes only. This podcast is not a substitute for professional care by a doctor or other qualified medical professional. This podcast is provided on the understanding that it does not constitute medical or other professional advice or services. If you’re looking for help in your journey, seek out a qualified medical practitioner. If you’re looking for a functional medicine practitioner, you can visit ifm.org and search their find a practitioner database it’s important that you have someone in your corner who’s trained, who’s a licensed healthcare practitioner, and can help you make changes, especially when it comes to your health.
PART 4 OF 4 ENDS [01:29:45]

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