Published April 2023 on YouTube

Dr. Matthew MacDougall: Neuralink & Technologies to Enhance Human Brains | Huberman Lab Podcast

1. Dr. Matthew MacDougall

Dr. Matthew MacDougall, head neurosurgeon at Neuralink, discusses the company's goal to improve brain function by augmenting memory, cognition, and communication between humans and machines. He explains how combining existing knowledge of brain function with robotics, machine learning, and computer science can change the way human brains work for the better. Dr. MacDougall also shares insights on the utility of animal versus human research in improving brain function and overcoming disease through neurosurgery.+

2. Sponsors: HVMN, Levels, Thesis

Andrew and Matthew discuss different ways to enhance cognitive performance, including the use of ketones, monitoring glucose levels, and custom nootropics. They explain how these tools can be used to optimize focus, creativity, and clarity, and offer discount codes for listeners to try them out.+

3. Brain Insights

Brain Function:Matthew MacDougall, a neurosurgeon and neuroscientist, discusses his view of the brain as a collection of functional modules pinned together in a bone box attached to the head. He shares insights on how the brain creates human behaviors and the interesting failure modes that can occur when certain parts of the brain are damaged.+
Brain Surgery Innovations:Matthew shares how modern neurosurgery techniques have made it possible to remove tumors from deep within the brain with minimal damage to surrounding tissue, resulting in better clinical outcomes for patients. He also discusses the devastating effects of frontal lobe damage on impulse control.+

4. Brain Filters and Sleep

Frontal Lobe Filters:Matthew explains that the frontal lobes act as a filter, controlling impulses and letting them through in a controlled way. Andrew and Matthew discuss the implications of damage to the frontal lobes and what it reveals about brain function.+
Sleep Deprivation Effects:Andrew and Matthew discuss the effects of sleep deprivation on brain activity. They talk about how sleep deprivation affects the entire brain and can lead to visual hallucinations and decreased motor coordination. Andrew shares a personal experience of feeling like his forebrain was going offline after several days of sleep deprivation.+

5. Neuroplasticity Possibilities

Andrew and Matthew discuss the potential of neuroplasticity in the adult brain with and without the use of machines. They explore the impact of drugs, specifically psychedelics, on increasing plasticity and the limitations of electrical stimulation targets in comparison to pharmacologic agents.+

6. Neural Implants for Injuries

Neural Implants for Spinal Cord Injuries:Matthew from Neuralink discusses the company's robotic insertion device that implants tiny electrodes into the brains of people with spinal cord injuries, allowing them to use their brains to move their limbs.+
Robotic Brain Surgery:Matthew explains how robots are essential for the precise placement of electrodes into the brain for motor control purposes. While human surgeons are still necessary for the initial steps of the surgery, the tiny electrodes require the precision and steadiness of a robot. The ultimate goal of Neuralink is to reduce human suffering by improving motor control for those with medical problems.+

7. Sponsor: AG1 (Athletic Greens)

Andrew discusses the importance of gut health and how Athletic Greens provides the optimal probiotics and foundational nutrients needed for microbiotic health. Listeners can try Athletic Greens for free with a special offer.+

8. Neocortex vs. Deep Brain

Andrew and Matthew discuss the neocortex and its unclear functions, while also exploring the bizarre and intriguing loss of function in the hypothalamus, such as uncontrollable fits of laughter.+

9. Decoding Brain Signals

Brain Augmentation:Andrew and Matthew discuss two approaches to augmenting the brain: pharmacology and microelectrodes. Neuralink is currently focused on decoding the brain through electrical stimulation and recording, with the immediate goal of allowing patients to control electronic devices with their motor intentions alone. The eventual goal is to reconnect the brain to the patient's own limbs, but that is still a few years away.+
Brain Signals Decoded:Andrew and Matthew discuss the challenges of decoding electrical signals from the motor cortex and how they are using smarter algorithms to decode motor intentions out of the brain. They have been successful in decoding signals in monkeys, but once they get to people, they expect to see much more interesting results.+

10. Implantable Technology

Neural Implants:Andrew and Matthew discuss the history of scientists experimenting on themselves and the potential benefits of implanting microelectrodes into the motor cortex to reverse paralysis. They explore the idea of a person implanting themselves with these electrodes and the advantages it could bring to advancing the technology.+
Mind-Controlled Devices:Matthew discusses the development of mind-controlled devices for medical purposes and the potential for future technology to refine the technique. He also vouches for the safety of the device, which surpasses industry standards. The chapter also touches on the use of RFID tags for identification purposes.+
Implantable RFID Chip:Matthew shares his experience with implanting an RFID chip in his hand, which allows him to unlock doors and store cryptocurrency. The chip is passive and coated in biocompatible glass, making it safe for long-term use. The procedure is simple and quick, and Matthew even convinced his wife to get one too.+

11. Bluetooth Headphones

Bluetooth Headphones:Andrew asks Matthew about the safety of using bluetooth headphones and the potential risks of electromagnetic fields. Matthew explains that the energy levels involved are so tiny that they are out of the range of concern and that we are constantly exposed to EMFs in our daily lives.+
Earbuds and Heat:Andrew and Matthew discuss the potential heat generated by earbuds and its effects on the brain. Matthew explains how the body's cooling system works and why he doesn't believe earbuds generate enough heat to cause significant harm.+

12. Brain Augmentation & Paralysis

Matthew from Neuralink explains the goal of reconnecting the patient's own muscle system to their motor cortex, allowing them agency over the movement of things in the world and eventually their body. They have developed a system for stimulating the spinal cord itself to bypass the damaged area of the spinal cord and have an implant in the spinal cord itself connected to an implant in the brain. Andrew and Matthew also discuss the importance of basic research in neuroscience and how it sets down the pavement for big clinical expeditions.+

13. Sponsor: InsideTracker

Andrew discusses the importance of regular blood work and introduces Inside Tracker, a personalized nutrition platform that uses data from your blood and DNA to help you better understand your body and reach your health goals. He highlights the challenge of getting blood work done without any information on how to move hormone markers, lipids, and metabolic factors into optimal ranges. Inside Tracker provides a personalized dashboard to address nutrition, behavior, and supplement-based approaches to achieve optimal ranges.+

14. Brain Implants

Brain Implants:Andrew and Matthew discuss the potential of brain implants, including the ability to enhance memory and communicate through thoughts. They explore the possibility of implanting chips in the hippocampus to improve memory and the potential for individuals to communicate with each other through implanted devices.+
Brain-to-Speech Communication:Andrew and Matthew discuss the possibility of brain-to-speech communication and how it is an engineering problem rather than a neuroscience problem. They also talk about the potential of devices like NeoSensory and how they can enrich sensory experiences.+
Peripheral Devices:Andrew and Matthew discuss the potential of peripheral devices, such as NeoSensory and tactile gloves, as alternatives to brain surgery requiring devices. They highlight the importance of understanding the bitrate of these devices and their ability to convey useful information into and out of the brain. The speakers also emphasize the need for developing high bandwidth brain interfaces for futuristic technologies like AI assistants to cognitive abilities.+

15. Brain-Machine Learning

Brain-Machine Learning:Andrew explains how brain-machine interfaces can learn and improve over time, similar to how a seeing-eye dog learns to navigate with its owner. He also discusses the potential of Neuralink's technology to insert chips and electrodes into the nervous system to enhance navigation and safety.+
AI and Neuralink:Matthew explains how Neuralink engineers have written software that can adapt to firing patterns of the brain and how coupling it with human intelligence can lead to better results over time. They discuss the potential of AI in Neuralink technology and how it can help people with disabilities.+
Learning through Video Games:Andrew and Matthew discuss the benefits of using video games as a training environment for improving motor execution and learning. They touch on the controversy surrounding video games and their impact on the brain, and share personal experiences with playing video games. The conversation highlights the potential of video games to enhance learning and proficiency in various fields, including surgery.+

16. Animal Research Insights

Neuralink's Animal Research:Andrew and Matthew discuss Neuralink's animal research and their use of pigs for implant devices. They highlight the company's transparency and dedication to animal welfare, as well as the importance of animal testing in advancing medical technology.+
Animal Research:Andrew and Matthew discuss the use of animals in medical research and the ethical considerations surrounding it. They also touch on the potential for willing human participants and the agency given to animals in the research conducted by Neuralink.+
Ethical Animal Research:Andrew and Matthew discuss the ethical considerations of animal research, particularly in the context of Neuralink's work. They highlight the importance of humane treatment of animals and the differences in approaches to motivating animals in experiments. They also discuss the use of pigs in medical device research and their role as a safety platform for Neuralink's implants.+

17. Skull Design

Matthew explains why the skull is a good biological adaptation but has puzzling vulnerabilities, such as the thinness of the temporal region and the presence of a critical artery just beneath it. Andrew questions why most helmets don't cover this region, which is crucial in preventing traumatic brain injuries.+

18. Brain Health, Alcohol

Andrew and Matthew discuss brain health practices and the impact of alcohol on the brain. They highlight the dangers of chronic alcohol consumption and its linear relationship with brain atrophy.+

19. Brain Plasticity

Andrew and Matthew discuss the concept of neuroplasticity and how different experiments have shown both the critical nature of individual neurons and circuits, as well as the brain's ability to circumvent lesions and holes. They explore the role of species, age, and redundancy in the brain's ability to adapt and compensate for damage.+

20. Car Accidents & Driver Alertness

Andrew Huberman and Matthew MacDougall discuss the possibility of introducing a simple eye tracking program to cars like Tesla to detect driver alertness and prevent accidents caused by sleepiness. Matthew shares that his Tesla already has a small camera that tracks his eye movement and alerts him if he's not looking at the road.+

21. Brain Augmentation Possibilities

Brain Augmentation Possibilities:Matthew discusses the possibilities of brain augmentation and machine interface, including full human expansion and cognition into AI, unrestricted communication, and banding human minds together. He encourages those interested in these possibilities to check out the Neuralink website for job opportunities.+
Neuralink's Brave Mission:Andrew and Matthew discuss Neuralink's mission to solve the hardest problems in the world and their public-facing approach to their work. They also encourage quadriplegic patients to sign up for clinical trials.+
Neuralink Clinical Trials:Matthew discusses the patient registry for Neuralink's clinical trials, while Andrew emphasizes the importance of the robotics aspect and thanks Matthew for his dedication to improving medical technology.+

22. Brain Augmentation

Andrew discusses the human brain and its functions, as well as the efforts being made at Neuralink to overcome diseases of brain and nervous system function and to augment how the human brain works. Dr. Matthew MacDougall joins the conversation to provide insights on his work at Neuralink.+