Published April 2023 on YouTube

Science-Based Mental Training & Visualization for Improved Learning | Huberman Lab Podcast

1. Mental Training & Visualization

Mental Training Mastery:Andrew explains how mental training and visualization can improve our ability to learn anything, from music to motor skills, and how it relies on neuroplasticity. He shares specific ways to perform mental training and visualization to complement actual performance and consolidate information in mind and body.+
Mental Training & Visualization:Andrew explains the importance of neuroplasticity and how mental training and visualization can improve our ability to learn and solve problems. He debunks the myth that the brain can't distinguish between imagined and real experiences and discusses the different types of mental training and visualization that work best for various domains. He also touches on the role of mental imagery in the creative process and problem-solving, and how anyone can improve their ability to visualize.+

2. Science and Health

Andrew discusses the importance of science and health with the help of sponsors Element, Maui NUI Venison, and Eight Sleep. He emphasizes the significance of hydration, nutrient-dense food, and the right sleeping environment for mental and physical health and performance.+

3. Mental Training

Andrew discusses the concept of mental training and visualization, which has been studied since the late 1800s. He explains the two types of neuroplasticity: developmental and adult self-directed adaptive plasticity, and how mental training can be used to direct specific changes in learning.+

4. Learning New Skills: Focus & Sleep

Andrew Huberman explains that self-directed adaptive plasticity, or the ability to learn and rewire neural connections, requires focused attention and periods of deep rest, particularly a good night's sleep on the first night following the attempt to learn. He emphasizes that neuroplasticity occurs during sleep, and even if sleep is interrupted, the brain can still experience "second and third night effects" to facilitate learning.+

5. Neural Plasticity

Neural Plasticity:Andrew discusses the importance of sleep in learning and the different forms of neural plasticity, including long-term depression, which can be beneficial for learning motor skills. He uses the example of infants learning to eat with a spoon to illustrate how too many connections between neurons can hinder coordinated movements.+
Motor Skill Learning:Andrew explains how long-term potentiation and long-term depression are both important for motor skill learning. He uses examples like learning to eat with utensils, crawling, and walking to illustrate how incorrect movements are eliminated to arrive at the correct movements in a reflexive and repeated way.+
Mental Training and Neuroplasticity:Andrew explains how mental training and visualization protocols can complement real-world cognitive and physical training by harnessing the potentiation and depression aspect of neuroplasticity. Mental training and visualization can enhance the speed and stability of learning, but cannot replace real-world execution of cognitive or motor tasks.+

6. Principle #1: Very Brief, Simple, Repeated Visualization

Mental Training Insights:Andrew discusses the brain and body's response to mental training and visualization, highlighting the similarities between real-world experiences and imagined experiences. He explains how the visual cortex and associated areas become active during visualization and how most people can successfully visualize objects in their mind's eye.+
Mental Visualization Principles:Andrew explains that in order to engage in neuroplasticity and learning through mental training and visualization, it is important to keep visualizations brief and sparse, lasting on the order of about 15 to 20 seconds. This is the key first principle of mental training. He also mentions that those who cannot do mental visualization should keep it simple and brief.+

7. Sponsor: AG1 (Athletic Greens)

Andrew discusses the importance of gut health and how Athletic Greens provides optimal probiotics and foundational nutrition. Listeners can try Athletic Greens by visiting for five free travel packs and a year's supply of vitamin D3 K2.+

8. Principle #2: Mental Training Cannot Replace Real Training

Mental Visualization:Andrew discusses the classic work of mental visualization by Roger Shepard and Stephen Kauslin. Mental visualization of simple objects is easy and fast, but rotating those objects in the mind's eye takes longer. The time it takes to generate and rotate a visual image scales directly with the image's complexity, which is important for mental training and understanding how our brains work.+
Mental Visualization:Andrew explains how mental visualization works at the neural level and how it is not as effective as real-world behavior and thinking when it comes to learning and improving performance in the cognitive or physical domain. He also shares the two principles of mental training and visualization: keeping it brief and simple, and combining real training with mental training.+

9. Principle #3: Combining Real & Mental Training

Mental Training and Visualization:Andrew explains how mental training and visualization can be effective when combined with real-world training and experiences. He discusses bistable images and impossible figures, which capture how the visual cortex recreates what's in front of it.+
Mental Training Principles:Andrew Huberman explains the three principles of mental training and visualization: simplicity, combination with real-world behaviors, and repetition. He emphasizes that mental training and visualization should not replace real-world motor and cognitive training, but rather augment it. Additionally, he discusses the importance of combining imagined and real-world experiences to enhance mental visualization.+

10. Principle #4: Assigning Real-World Labels to Visualizations

Mental Training Labels:Andrew explains how assigning cognitive labels to mental training and visualization can make them more effective. The human brain is exceptionally good at recognizing faces, and by labeling mental images with familiar objects, we can better manipulate and visualize them. This highlights the importance of real-world experience in supporting mental training and visualization.+
UFOs and Mental Training:Andrew discusses the disputed existence of UFOs and how our cognitive labels and decisions play a crucial role in mental training and visualization. Accurately recapitulating real-world training and experiences is important for effective mental training and visualization.+
Mental Golf Training:Andrew explains the principles of mental training and visualization to improve golf swings. Naming and giving an identity to a real-world skill and applying the same name or identity to the mental version of that can enhance the mental training and visualization in significant ways.+

11. Mental Visualization Insights

Mental Visualization:Andrew shares insights on mental visualization and how it captures many features of real-world behavior and perceptions. He discusses experiments that show how mental training can be harnessed and applied towards perception and training.+
Mental Imagery Equivalence:Andrew explains the equivalence of mental imagery with real-world perception and behavior. He highlights the importance of consciously generated eye movements in mental training and visualization to bring about more neural circuitry, similar to the real-world experience.+

12. Mental Training Principles

Effective Mental Training:Andrew discusses the five principles of effective mental training and visualization, including the importance of brief and simple visualization, repetition of exercises, and rest periods. He also highlights the optimal number of repetitions per session and the length of rest periods between each repetition.+
Mental Training Epochs:Andrew explains the importance of mental training and visualization in improving cognitive and motor skills. He suggests breaking down the training into epochs of 5-15 seconds and repeating the activity 50-75 times for effective results. Mental training and visualization can increase the accuracy and frequency of real-world behavior, but it is important to successfully complete the task in the real world before relying solely on mental training.+
Effective Mental Training:Andrew Huberman explains that mental training and visualization can be effective for enhancing the speed and accuracy of skills that one has already demonstrated some degree of proficiency at in the real world. Performing these sessions 3-5 times per week is most effective for repeating 50-75 trials of the same thing. Once consolidated, the neural circuits responsible for performing that mental or physical task can be further supported or reinforced.+

13. Sponsor: InsideTracker

Andrew shares his belief in the importance of regular blood work and introduces Inside Tracker, a personalized nutrition platform that helps users understand their body and reach their health goals by analyzing data from their blood and DNA.+

14. Mental vs Physical Training

Mental vs Physical Training:Andrew Huberman explains the effectiveness of mental training and how it can maintain or even improve skill performance, especially for those who are injured or unable to perform certain behaviors. However, physical training is still more effective than mental training, but mental training is better than no training at all.+
Real World vs Mental Training:Andrew explains that physical or real-world training is always more effective than mental training. However, combining mental training with real-world training can bring about significantly greater results in terms of speed, accuracy, and consistency of performance. If you're unable to do physical training, mental training is still better than doing no training at all.+

15. Timing of Mental Training & Sleep

Andrew discusses the importance of focused attention and rest in building skills through a combination of physical and mental training. He emphasizes the need for good quality sleep following both types of training and suggests that mental training can be done immediately after physical training or on a separate day. He also highlights the critical role of sleep in consolidating learning and suggests that getting sufficient amounts of quality sleep 80% of the nights of your life is a reasonable goal.+

16. Mental Visualization & Physical Training

Andrew discusses the effectiveness of mental visualization and physical training in improving cognitive or motor skills. While mental visualization is effective for most people, a combination of physical and mental training is more effective for individuals 65 or older.+

17. Mental Training Techniques

Mental Training Techniques:Andrew explains the difference between first person and third person mental training and visualization, and how the former is more effective for building cognitive and motor skills. He suggests using first person visualization when possible, and discusses what to do when a specific cognitive skill doesn't lend itself well to this technique.+
Mental Training Visualization:Andrew discusses the effectiveness of mental training and visualization in improving skills. He explains the difference between first person and third person visualization and suggests that first person visualization is more effective. However, if one chooses to use third person visualization, it is better to watch oneself on video or listen to oneself in audio and/or video.+

18. Mental Practice and Motor Learning

Mental Practice Modulates:Andrew discusses a study that shows how mental practice and visualization can modulate the functional connectivity between the cerebellum and primary motor cortex, challenging the notion that mental training is done with eyes closed. He explains the importance of upper motor neurons in controlling lower motor neurons through directed action, and the role of the cerebellum in the back of the brain.+
Motor Learning:Andrew explains how the cerebellum communicates with the primary motor cortex through inhibition and how mental practice can enhance the speed and accuracy of motor behavior. The study he references shows that mental practice of a simple motor sequence led to improvements in real-world performance, and recordings of cerebellar to motor cortex communication supported these findings.+
Mental Training and Motor Performance:Andrew discusses a study that shows how mental training improves motor skill performance by establishing neural circuit connections between cerebellum and primary motor cortex. The study also showed that the improvement in performance was not related to activation of the motor pathways themselves.+

19. “Go” & “No-Go” Pathways

Andrew discusses the importance of the no-go component of motor learning and how mental training and visualization can improve it. He explains that restricting inappropriate movements or thoughts is a crucial part of learning and that this aspect is often overlooked in traditional go tasks.+

20. Motor Learning Insights

The Stop Signal Task:Andrew explains the stop signal task, a laboratory task that closely mimics action learning and cognitive learning in the real world. The task involves pressing the left or right key on a keyboard in response to a left or right-facing arrow on a screen. The stop signal task adds a red circle or red X, which is a stop signal, and requires the subject to not press any key at all. The task measures reaction time and skill acquisition in motor performance.+
Motor Inhibition:Andrew explains a fun little task that illustrates the difficulty of generating stop signals when learning new motor behavior. He emphasizes that these tasks target the same neural circuits used for any motor task.+
Mental and Physical Training:Andrew discusses a study that explores the combination of mental and physical training in motor learning and cognitive tasks. The study found that the combination of mental and physical training outperformed either physical or mental training alone in improving response inhibition in the stop signal task.+
Mental and Physical Training:Andrew discusses the importance of mental and physical training when trying to learn a new behavior. He highlights a study that shows how a combination of both types of training is more effective than either one alone, especially when it comes to action withholding. The study also showed significant improvements in just five days of training.+

21. Aphantasia and Mental Imagery

Aphantasia and Synesthesia:Andrew discusses aphantasia, a condition where some people cannot generate visual imagery, and how it relates to synesthesia. Contrary to popular belief, individuals with aphantasia can still experience synesthesia.+
Aphantasia and Autism:Andrew discusses the relationship between aphantasia and autism, and how the categorization of autism is undergoing revision. People with aphantasia tend to exhibit more features associated with the autism spectrum, but it's unclear what the causal relationship is. Not all people on the autism spectrum have aphantasia, and vice versa.+
Mental Training and Visualization:Andrew discusses the importance of mental training and visualization in relation to cognition and social learning. He explores how mental imagery plays a crucial role in our ability to learn appropriate social behavior and how it can be challenging for individuals with certain neurocognitive phenotypes.+

22. Mental Training Insights

Mental Training Insights:Andrew shares insights on the key components of an effective mental training and visualization practice. He emphasizes the importance of executing specific movements and cognitive tasks in the real world and creating parallels between real world training and mental training. He also explains the benefits of engaging neuroplasticity through repeated mental training and visualization.+
Mental Training Essentials:Andrew explains the essential components of mental training and visualization for improving real-world performance. He emphasizes the importance of focus, attention, and deep rest for consolidating learning and highlights the critical role of neuroplasticity in these processes. Andrew encourages listeners to explore motor training and visualization, which have been shown to lead to improvements in cognitive and physical tasks.+

23. Supporting the Huberman Lab

Andrew shares ways to support the Huberman Lab podcast and discusses the benefits of supplements for improving sleep, hormone augmentation, and focus. He also introduces Momentous Supplements as a partner and encourages listeners to check out the Neural Network newsletter for summaries and toolkits.+