Published September 2021 on YouTube

Controlling Your Dopamine For Motivation, Focus & Satisfaction | Huberman Lab Podcast #39

1. Understanding Dopamine

Andrew Huberman dispels common myths about dopamine and explains how it works in our brains and bodies. He discusses how dopamine is related to addiction, motivation, and satisfaction. He also shares tools for leveraging dopamine to sustain energy and drive for long periods of time.

2. Eyeglasses and Health

High-Quality Eyeglasses:Andrew discusses the importance of high-quality eyeglasses and introduces Roka, a sponsor of the podcast, who designs eyeglasses and sunglasses with the visual system biology in mind. He explains how Roka's glasses provide perfect clarity and are lightweight, making them suitable for various activities.
Health Optimization:Andrew talks about the importance of regular blood work and DNA testing to optimize one's health. He also recommends Headspace, a meditation app, to help stay consistent with meditation practice. Listeners can get a discount on blood and DNA testing through InsideTracker with the code "Huberman" and a free trial of Headspace's full library of meditations by going to

3. Rethinking Learning

Andrew announces an upcoming event called Rethink Education, where he will be speaking about the applications of neuroplasticity for teaching and learning. He will be sharing the plasticity super protocol that incorporates all we know about efficient and rapid learning. The event is free and open to all educators.

4. What Dopamine (Really) Does

Understanding Dopamine:Andrew explains the role of dopamine in our brain and how it affects our mood, motivation, and desire. He breaks down the concepts of tonic and phasic release of dopamine and how they interact to influence our baseline level of dopamine.
The Power of Dopamine:Andrew explains how dopamine influences our motivation, drive, and energy levels. It also controls time perception and is vitally important for movement. He discusses how dopamine depletion can lead to Parkinson's and Lewy body dementia, impacting mood and motivation.

5. Neural Pathways

Andrew explains the two main neural pathways in the brain that dopamine uses to exert its effects, including the mesocorticolimbic pathway which is involved in motivation, drive, and craving, and the nigrostriatal pathway which is mainly for movement. He also discusses how drugs like cocaine and methamphetamine tap into the mesocorticolimbic pathway and disrupt it, leading to addiction.

6. Understanding Dopamine

Andrew explains how dopamine is released in the brain and body, and how it can influence both local and broad neural circuits. He also discusses the importance of the peak to baseline ratio in achieving pleasure and motivation, and how simply increasing dopamine levels may not be the best approach.

7. Fast and Slow Effects of Dopamine

Andrew explains how dopamine works through G protein-coupled receptors, which are slower than other modes of neuron communication. This slower process allows dopamine to have long-lasting effects and even control gene expression, making it an important neurotransmitter for both movement and motivation/craving pathways.

8. The Power of Dopamine

Andrew explains the importance of dopamine and how it works with neurotransmitters to stimulate movement, motivation, and drive. Dopamine is responsible for increasing alertness and desire to pursue things outside of oneself. It is a universal currency that dictates our quality of life and desire to pursue things.

9. Understanding Dopamine

Andrew explains that the amount of dopamine you experience from something depends on your baseline level of dopamine when you arrive there, and your previous dopamine peaks. Repeatedly engaging in something you enjoy increases your threshold for enjoyment. Understanding this process can help you control your own dopamine release for optimal motivation and drive.

10. Dopamine's Profound Impact

Tragic Outbreak:Andrew shares a tragic incident from the 80s where young opioid addicts unknowingly consumed MPTP instead of MPPP, which resulted in irreversible Parkinsonian symptoms. The incident highlights the profound impact of dopamine on our motivation, drive, and movement.
The Power of Dopamine:Andrew shares his personal experience of having low dopamine levels and how it opened his mind to the importance of dopamine in our lives. He discusses the irreversible effects of MPTP on dopaminergic neurons and the use of Thorazine to block dopamine receptors. Andrew emphasizes the need to understand and leverage dopamine for a healthy baseline and access to peak experiences.

11. Dopamine and Epinephrin

Andrew explains the relationship between dopamine and epinephrin, how they work together to make us seek out certain things, and how dopamine colors the subjective experience of an activity to make it more pleasureful.

12. Boosting Dopamine

Dopamine Boosters:Andrew discusses different activities that increase dopamine levels, including chocolate, sex, nicotine, cocaine, and exercise. He explains how much each activity increases dopamine above baseline and how long the effects last.
Exercise and Dopamine:Andrew explains how exercise impacts dopamine levels and how subjective experience plays a role. He also discusses the importance of the prefrontal cortex in assigning a subjective experience and how journaling or practicing appreciation can increase dopamine release.

13. Caffeine and Dopamine

Andrew explains how caffeine affects dopamine levels in the brain. While caffeine does increase dopamine to some extent, it's not as significant as other substances like nicotine or cocaine. However, regular ingestion of caffeine can increase the number of dopamine receptors, allowing for a greater experience of dopamine's effects. Andrew also warns against relying on multiple substances and activities to increase dopamine, as it can lead to decreased motivation and energy levels.

14. Understanding Dopamine

Understanding Dopamine:Andrew explains how dopamine is the universal currency of seeking and forging, and how it drives us to seek things that will provide sustenance and pleasure in the short-term and extend the species in the long-term. He also discusses why dopamine has a baseline level and peaks, and how it relates to our evolutionary interests.
The Dopamine Cycle:Andrew explains how dopamine drives the foraging process and the importance of the dopamine cycle. The cycle involves a release of dopamine when finding a reward, followed by a return to a lower level to encourage further foraging.
Understanding Dopamine:Andrew explains how dopamine works in our brain and how it affects our behavior. The level of dopamine drops below baseline after a peak, which can lead to a drop in mood and motivation. Understanding this can help us stay motivated and keep our dopamine levels healthy.

15. The Dopamine Balance

Andrew explains how dopamine governs the pleasure-pain balance and how the readily releasable pool of dopamine affects it. He also talks about the relationship between dopamine levels and the baseline, and how indulging in activities that increase dopamine levels can lead to a drop in the baseline.

16. Dopamine and Addiction

Dopamine and Addiction:Andrew explains how addiction is caused by pursuing activities that lead to huge increases in dopamine. Pursuing such activities depletes dopamine and causes a severe drop in baseline, leading to addiction. He also talks about how dopamine is not just evoked by one activity but by all activities that bring pleasure, leading to a narrowing of the things that bring pleasure.
Maintaining Dopamine Levels:Andrew explains how engaging in activities that spike dopamine levels can lead to a drop in baseline levels, causing a lack of pleasure in everyday activities. He suggests taking a break from these activities to replenish the releasable pool of dopamine and maintain a healthy baseline. He also shares an example of a friend who fasted from phone, video games, and social media for 30 days to replenish his dopamine levels and improve his mood and concentration.

17. Achieving Dopamine Peaks

Achieving Dopamine Peaks:Andrew explains how to achieve dopamine peaks without dropping our baseline by engaging in activities that evoke dopamine through intermittent release. He discusses the importance of intermittent reward schedules and how they are central to keeping us motivated and pursuing pleasurable activities.
Maintaining Motivation:Andrew explains how dopamine plays a crucial role in motivation and how to maintain a healthy baseline level of dopamine to ensure continued pleasure and motivation in activities such as exercise. He suggests varying the amount of dopamine released during activities by removing or introducing dopamine-releasing elements randomly, such as music or energy drinks.

18. Digital Dopamine

Andrew explains how our constant engagement with digital technology can potentially lead to disruptions or lowering in baseline levels of dopamine. He shares a personal example of how he was able to increase his motivation and pleasure in working out by removing multiple sources of dopamine release, such as his smartphone, during his workouts.

19. Stimulants and Motivation

Andrew cautions against using stimulants frequently as it can lead to a reduction in satisfaction and joy from activities. While caffeine can be good for the dopamine system, energy drinks and pre-workouts can deplete dopamine levels over time, leading to challenges with motivation and drive. Andrew suggests intermittent spiking of dopamine is the way to go for enhancing motivation and focus in the long run.

20. Yerba Mate Benefits

Andrew explains how yerba mate, a beverage high in caffeine, antioxidants, and GLP-1, can increase dopamine receptors and protect dopaminergic neurons. Studies have shown that yerba mate can preserve the survival of dopamine neurons in both the movement-related and motivation pathways, making it a potential neuroprotective agent.

21. Caffeine & Neurotoxicity of MDMA

Andrew explains how caffeine can increase the toxicity of MDMA by upregulating dopamine receptors, making it a dangerous substance in this context. While caffeine can be beneficial in some situations, it can be detrimental in others.

22. Dopamine and Learning

Andrew discusses a study that shows how amphetamine and cocaine can limit the brain's ability to learn and change itself in positive ways, due to the high peak in dopamine that it creates and the low dopamine state that follows. This effect can last for some time, serving as a cautionary note for those who use these substances.

23. Dopamine and Neuroplasticity

Andrew discusses the use of drugs like Adderall and Ritalin for ADHD and warns against non-clinical use due to the potential for blocking neuroplasticity. He cautions against spiking dopamine levels too frequently without a valid clinical need.

24. Boosting Dopamine

Boosting Dopamine:Andrew discusses how dopamine can be beneficial and not just detrimental. He explains how cold exposure can increase dopamine and norepinephrine levels and the safety parameters to keep in mind while trying it.
Cold Water Exposure:Andrew discusses the physiological responses to cold water exposure, including the release of epinephrine and the sustained increase in dopamine levels. He also shares insights from a study that looked at the effects of different water temperatures on adrenaline and dopamine concentrations.
Cold Water Benefits:Andrew discusses the benefits of cold water therapy, including the release of dopamine and norepinephrine, which can lead to increased calm and focus. He warns against prolonged exposure to cold water but notes that once adapted, cold water therapy can be a zero-cost way to trigger a long-lasting increase in dopamine.

25. Rewards and Effort

Rewards and Behavior:Andrew discusses the positive and negative aspects of rewards for our behavior and how dopamine relates to our perception of time. He shares an experiment done at Stanford where children had a lower tendency to draw on their own after being rewarded for drawing. Andrew suggests a protocol to achieve a better relationship to our activities and dopamine system.
Growth Mindset Benefits:Andrew discusses the benefits of having a growth mindset and how it can lead to better performance. He explains how dopamine release can be associated with effort and how focusing only on the end goal can make the process more painful and less efficient. By subjectively attaching the feeling of friction and effort to an internally generated reward system, one can amplify all endeavors, especially hard ones.
Finding Pleasure in Effort:Andrew discusses how to access the pleasure of dopamine release from effort itself, rather than just focusing on the end result. By reframing the pain of effort as a choice and something to be enjoyed, we can increase our baseline dopamine levels and find pleasure in all types of effort. He also warns against spiking dopamine before or after engaging in effort, as it can interfere with accessing the pleasure of effort itself.

26. Fasting and Dopamine

Fasting and Dopamine:Andrew explains how fasting affects dopamine levels and why it can be a more rewarding experience than eating. When we fast, our dopamine levels increase, and when we finally eat, it evokes even more dopamine release. This is why fasting is becoming a popular way of eating.
The Power of Deprivation:Andrew explains how depriving oneself of certain activities can lead to a greater release of dopamine when the activity is finally allowed. He discusses how fasting can be used to consciously evoke dopamine release from deprivation, not just from the food reward itself. He also highlights how knowledge of the benefits of fasting can enhance the rewarding properties of the behavior.

27. Belief and Dopamine

Andrew explains how hearing something that reinforces one's prior beliefs can actually evoke dopamine release, making it such that when we see or hear something that validates a belief we already have, it can increase dopamine release.

28. The Dopamine Dynamic

Andrew explains how dopamine levels affect our perception of taste and how consuming highly palatable foods can make healthier options taste less appealing. By staying within a dynamic range of dopamine levels, we can train our brains to appreciate whole foods and avoid the negative effects of excessive dopamine release.

29. Pornography

Andrew explains how the intensity of pornography can negatively shape real-world romantic and sexual interactions by affecting dopamine levels. The discussion is not about passing judgment on pornography but understanding the underlying neurobiological mechanisms. Many people who regularly indulge in pornography experience challenges in real-world romantic interactions.

30. Wellbutrin & Depression & Anxiety

Andrew explains how Welbutrin, a drug that increases dopamine and norepinephrine, can be a useful alternative treatment for depression for those who suffer from serotonin-related side effects. However, it can also increase anxiety and create a state of elevated alertness. It is important to work with a clinician to find the correct dosage.

31. Boosting Dopamine

Andrew discusses the effects of Macuna Pruriens, a supplement that increases dopamine levels, and its potential benefits for Parkinson's disease, sexual health, and fertility. However, he also warns of the crash that can occur after its effects wear off and suggests an alternative supplement, L-tyrosine.

32. Boosting Dopamine

Andrew explains how L-tyrosine can increase dopamine levels and enhance focus and motivation. However, he warns that it can lead to a crash and is not recommended for those with dopaminergic conditions.

33. Melatonin and Dopamine

Andrew discusses how melatonin can decrease dopamine levels and suggests avoiding exogenous melatonin to maintain healthy levels of dopamine.

34. Boosting dopamine

Andrew discusses the compound PEA, found in foods like chocolate, that can increase dopamine levels and improve focus. He shares his personal experience taking PEA and emphasizes the importance of consulting with a doctor before trying it.

35. Tool 14 Huperzine A

Andrew discusses the lesser-known compound, Huperzine A, and its ability to increase dopamine in the medial prefrontal cortex and hippocampus. He warns against blindly consuming it and recommends gaining knowledge about how it functions before trying it. Huperzine A is gaining popularity as a nootropic for its cholinergic stimulating properties and ability to stimulate dopamine release.

36. Social Connection and Dopamine

Andrew explains how social connections, particularly those that evoke oxytocin release, are central to stimulating the dopamine pathways. This finding is important for the evolution of our species, as it encourages individuals to seek social connections.

37. Control Your Dopamine

Andrew explains how dopamine pathways are under our control and how we can modulate and adjust our levels of dopamine through behavioral tools. He emphasizes the importance of healthy social interactions and how pursuing quality can help us achieve a better understanding of our dopamine system.

38. Supporting Huberman Lab

Andrew shares ways to support the Huberman Lab, including subscribing to their YouTube channel, leaving reviews on Apple and Spotify, checking out their sponsors, donating to their research, and using high-quality supplements from Thorne. He also emphasizes the importance of using supplements of high quality and quantity.