Published July 2023 on YouTube

Dr. Robert Malenka: How Your Brain’s Reward Circuits Drive Your Choices | Huberman Lab Podcast

1. Dr. Robert Malenka

Explore the fascinating connection between neuroplasticity and reward systems with Dr. Robert. Learn how our choices and experiences shape our brain's response to pleasure and addiction, and discover the impact of dopamine and serotonin on our behaviors. Gain valuable insights into brain function and the power of neurochemicals in shaping our lives.+

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3. Dopamine & Reward Circuitry

Exploring Dopamine:Delve into the fascinating world of dopamine with Andrew and Robert as they discuss its role in our daily lives, from pleasure to reward systems. Discover key insights into neuroplasticity and the impact of dopamine on our brains.+
Understanding Dopamine:Discover the fascinating role of dopamine in the brain's reward circuitry and how it influences our perception of value and reinforcement. Robert explains why we have a reward circuitry and how it evolved to enhance our survival. Explore the connection between dopamine and rewarding experiences, from sugary foods to sexual encounters, and gain insights into the mechanisms that drive our behavior.+

4. Reward, Arousal, Memory & Dopamine

Unraveling the Brain:Dive into the intricate world of dopamine neurons and their role in the brain's reward circuitry. Discover how these neurons send messages to different brain regions, including the nucleus accumbens, and explore the fascinating effects of dopamine release.+
The Dopamine System:Discover how the dopamine system influences arousal and memory, signaling important and rewarding experiences in our environment. Robert explains how this system is closely tied to our survival instincts and the impact it has on our attention and memory.+

5. The Dopamine Complexity

The Dopamine System:Andrew and Robert discuss the complexity of the dopamine system and how it is influenced by context. They explore the anticipation of rewards, the role of memory, and the balance between different reward contingencies. The plasticity of the dopamine reward circuitry is highlighted, emphasizing its contextual dependence.+
Context and Brain Modification:Discover how context and previous experiences can modify the brain's reward circuitry, as explained by Robert. M. in this chapter. From the anticipation of Thanksgiving festivities to the rapid change in emotions within intimate relationships, the brain's response to stimuli can vary greatly. Explore the complexity of the dopamine system and its connections to memory, emotional experiences, and decision-making.+

6. Memory & Reward Scaling

Unveiling Prefrontal Cortex:Andrew Huberman delves into the surprising neuroanatomy of the prefrontal cortex, highlighting its connection to ancient structures like the amygdala. He explores how this complex brain region plays a crucial role in setting rules and scaling the reward response. Discover the fascinating ability of the prefrontal cortex to shape our perceptions and emotions in various contexts.+
Complex Brain Systems:Neuroscientist Robert discusses the challenges of studying and explaining the complex functioning of the brain, particularly in relation to the dopamine reward circuitry. He highlights the importance of context and personal experience in understanding how the brain responds to stimuli, such as a small piece of a donut, and how this complexity contributes to the challenges of addiction.+

7. Understanding Addiction

Understanding Addiction:Explore the complex nature of addiction and its relationship to the dopamine system. Learn about the varying levels of addictive liability in different substances and behaviors, and gain insights from renowned experts in the field.Show transcript +
Addiction and Dopamine:Explore the correlation between dopamine release and addiction liability, as well as the influence of administration routes on the reward circuitry. The discussion delves into the profound statement that addiction is related to memory systems and neuroplasticity, and raises questions about how dopamine release and kinetics impact neural circuitry and attraction to drugs or experiences.+

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9. Neuroplasticity and Addiction

Neuroplasticity and Addiction:Discover the fascinating role of neuroplasticity in addiction as Andrew and Robert delve into the powerful changes that drugs of abuse cause in the brain's reward circuitry, shedding light on why some individuals develop addiction disorders while others do not.+
Addiction and Dopamine:Discover how a single exposure to substances like cocaine can lead to long-lasting changes in the dopamine system, increasing the propensity for addiction. Join Andrew and Robert as they delve into the neurobiology of addiction and explore why certain individuals are more susceptible than others.+
Understanding Addiction:Explore the fascinating world of addiction as Robert and Andrew discuss the varying effects of drugs on different individuals, the potential for lasting changes in the brain, and the genetic and environmental factors that contribute to addiction. Discover why some people find certain substances irresistible while others remain unaffected, and consider the risks and personal decisions involved in experimenting with drugs.+

10. The Power of Rewards

The Power of Rewarding Experiences:Discover how cues and powerful experiences can create reinforcing or aversive qualities, as discussed by Robert and Andrew. They delve into the addictive nature of nicotine and its impact on society, while sharing personal anecdotes and insights on the lasting effects of rewarding experiences.+
Wanting vs Liking:Explore the fascinating distinction between wanting and liking in addiction, as Robert and Andrew discuss the neural mechanisms behind it and the success of programs like Twelve Step in modifying these behaviors.+

11. Impact of Addictive Substances

Impact of Addictive Substances:Explore how different substances impact the dopamine reward circuitry and the addictive properties of opioids, as discussed by Andrew and Robert.+
Opioids and Dopamine:Robert explains the similarities and differences between opioids and their effects on dopamine release. While both drugs impact the reward circuitry, their subjective experiences and individual actions vary greatly. Learn about the historical significance of opioids and the molecular properties of fentanyl that contribute to its higher addictive liability.+

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13. Self-Doubt, Confidence & Career

Unusual Dreams:Andrew and Robert share their experiences with opioids and how they affect their dreams, highlighting the fascinating connection between drugs and dreaming.+
Building Confidence:Robert shares his gradual journey of gaining confidence in his intellectual abilities and ideas, emphasizing the importance of developing a thicker skin and voicing one's opinions. Andrew reflects on the impact of showing up consistently over time and learning to trust one's ideas.+

14. Autism Spectrum Disorder

The Social Implications:Andrew and Robert discuss the often overlooked aspect of reward circuitry related to social interaction and its implications for autism spectrum disorders. They explore the complexities of the disorder, emphasizing the need for sensitivity and respect towards individuals with different styles of living and interaction.+
Understanding Autism:Gain insights into the complexities of discussing autism, including the use of terminology, sensitivity towards neurodiverse individuals, and the importance of respectful language.+

15. Social Behavior Unveiled

Social Behavior and Neuroplasticity:Explore the fascinating connection between social behavior and neuroplasticity as Andrew and Robert discuss the role of the dopamine and serotonergic systems in mediating the desire for social interactions. Discover how these circuits in the brain can be modified and the potential implications for conditions like addiction and depression.+
The Power of Social Connections:Discover the fascinating role of oxytocin in positive social interactions and how it influences our reward circuitry. Join Robert as he explores the evolutionary advantages of sociability and the impact it has on our survival and well-being.+
Neuromodulators and Social Interactions:Explore the fascinating interplay between oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin in promoting sociability and reinforcing positive social interactions. Discover how these neuromodulators influence each other and their impact on the brain circuitry, as discussed by Andrew and Robert in this chapter.+

16. Neurotransmitter Interactions

The Brain's Reward System:Explore the complex interactions between dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin in the brain's reward system. Learn how these neurotransmitters work together to influence social interactions and feelings of pleasure. Discover the role of the nucleus accumbens and its neurons as accelerators and brakes in this intricate process.+
The Complexities of Brain Activity:Robert and Andrew discuss the complexities of brain activity, focusing on the different cell types in the nucleus accumbens and how they are modulated by dopamine. They explore how these complexities impact social behavior and the importance of understanding them for developing therapeutic interventions, particularly for individuals with autism spectrum disorders.+

17. Reward for Pro-Social Behavior

Andrew Huberman and Robert Malenka discuss the evolutionary reasons behind the human brain's strong affinity for social interactions and the positive effects it has on our well-being and reproductive success. They explore how these interactions are deeply ingrained in our neural circuitry and why they continue to be rewarding and beneficial in our modern society.+

18. Social Media Addiction

Social Media Addiction:Andrew and Robert discuss the addictive nature of social media and the impact it has on mental health, highlighting the importance of physical interpersonal interactions. Robert shares his own experience with compulsive cell phone use, drawing parallels to addiction in mice.+
Social Media's Neurobiological Impact:Explore the complex relationship between social media and our neurobiology, as Andrew and Robert discuss the activation of reward circuitry and the capitalization on primitive mechanisms. Gain insights into the positive and negative effects of social media on our society and the importance of being aware of its impact.+
The Power of Gambling:Explore the captivating world of gambling addiction as Andrew and Robert discuss the allure of the next big win, the influence of reward circuitry, and the strategies employed by casinos to keep players hooked.+

19. Pain, Social Behavior & Empathy

Exploring Empathy:Robert discusses the importance of empathy and compassion in fostering positive social interactions and understanding. He shares his research on the neurobiological underpinnings of empathy and his belief in its significance for the survival of the human species.+
The Power of Empathy:Robert discusses the concept of empathy and its evolutionary significance, highlighting a fascinating behavioral assay involving mice that demonstrates how one mouse can feel the pain of another.+
Social Transfer of Pain Relief:Discover how mice in pain can experience analgesia when exposed to mice that have received pain relief, shedding light on the social buffering of pain. The episode also explores the potential role of molecules and social communication in alleviating pain in humans.+

20. Empathy Explored

Empathic Behaviors:Learn about the fascinating research on the social transfer of pain and how it relates to reward circuitry. Discover the potential influence of neuromodulators like dopamine and serotonin on empathic behaviors.+
Increasing Empathy:Andrew and Robert discuss the importance of increasing empathy and compassion in the world, exploring how personal challenges and struggles can inhibit these qualities. They delve into the idea of introducing a behavioral paradigm that incentivizes helping others, even in inconvenient situations, and reflect on their own experiences and tendencies in practicing empathy and compassion.+
Understanding Empathic Behaviors:Dive into the fascinating world of empathic behaviors as Andrew and Robert discuss the impact of suffering, designing experiments, and the influence of neuromodulators like serotonin on the brain's circuitry. Discover how hunger, familiarity, and previous interactions shape our capacity for empathy.+

21. Autism and Social Rewards

Autism and Social Rewards:Andrew and Robert discuss the potential link between autism and a lack of social rewards, exploring variations in brain wiring and the impact on social interactions. They delve into imaging studies and mouse models, highlighting the heterogeneity of autism spectrum disorders and the need for further investigation. The conversation also touches on the role of early experiences and the potential for deficits in neural mechanisms related to empathy.+
Understanding MDMA's Effects:Discover the fascinating interplay between dopamine and serotonin in the nucleus accumbens and the role of oxytocin in the social effects of MDMA. Dive into the potential therapeutic uses of oxytocin for autism and explore related neuropeptides like vasopressin.+

22. MDMA's Mind-Altering Power

The MDMA Experience:Explore the fascinating effects of MDMA on the serotonin and dopamine systems, and why it provides a qualitatively different experience compared to other drugs like cocaine or methamphetamine. Learn how the molecule's affinity for the serotonin vacuum cleaner plays a crucial role in shaping its impact on human behavior.+
Serotonin, Oxytocin, and MDMA:Robert discusses the intricate relationship between serotonin and oxytocin in the brain, as well as the addictive liability and pro-social effects of MDMA. He also shares ongoing research on the impact of MDMA on empathy. Discover the complexities of the brain and the potential therapeutic uses of MDMA.+
Serotonin and Dopamine Interaction:Robert and Andrew discuss the complex interaction between serotonin and dopamine in the brain, shedding light on how these chemical messengers influence each other and impact our experiences. They touch on the role of MDMA and its reinforcing qualities, while also highlighting the legal and safety concerns surrounding its use.+

23. Serotonin and Autism

Autism Treatments:Explore the role of serotonin in autism and the potential of pharmacologic therapies in treating social deficits. Learn about the only FDA approved drug for autism and ongoing research in this field.+
MDMA and Serotonin in Autism:Robert and Andrew discuss the role of MDMA and serotonin in individuals with autism spectrum disorders, exploring the potential benefits of MDMA in social interactions and the malfunctioning of serotonergic systems in autism.+

24. Serotonin, MDMA & Psychedelics

Andrew and Robert discuss the role of serotonin and its impact on subjective experiences, highlighting the differences between MDMA, psilocybin, and LSD. They delve into the complexity of receptor subtypes and the potential for developing novel therapeutic agents.+

25. Exciting Potential

Exciting Potential:Dive into the fascinating landscape of psychedelics and MDMA as potential therapeutics for mental health challenges and consciousness expansion. Robert shares his cautious excitement about the powerful brain probes and the need for rigorous research in this field.+
Psychedelic Concerns:Robert shares his concerns about the potential negative effects of psychedelics and the importance of well-controlled clinical trials. He highlights the need for careful research to avoid hindering progress in studying these substances for mental health treatment.+

26. Neuroplasticity & Social Connection

Explore the fascinating world of neuroplasticity, reward systems, and social connection with Andrew and Dr. Robert. Discover how supplements can enhance sleep and hormone support, and learn about the Neural Network newsletter for valuable toolkits in various areas of life. Join the discussion and deepen your understanding of the brain's incredible capabilities.+