Episode 12: Increase Motivation and Drive | Huberman Lab • Podcast Notes (2023)

Episode 12: Increase Motivation and Drive | Huberman Lab • Podcast Notes (1)

March 25, 2021

(Video) Huberman Lab Podcast Episode 12 - How To Increase Motivation & Drive | PODCAST SUMMARY

Main Conclusions

  • Dopamine is involved in wanting, not having, the excitement or anticipation of something, which increases dopamine spikes 30-40 times.
  • Dopamine motivates you to take action to get what you want.
  • Novelty is the number one trigger for dopamine release
  • A subtle feature of the dopamine system: for every drop of dopamine released, there is an associated error when prolactin is released.
  • Prolactin is behind the feeling of "what's next" or disappointment after a big goal
  • Dopamine makes us focus on things outside of ourselves that we need to pursue; Serotonin makes us happy here and now.
  • To keep motivation high, try intermittent reward: celebrate achievements every other time, every 10 times, etc.


Dr. Andrew Huberman, Ph.D. Professor of Neurobiology and Ophthalmology at Stanford University School of Medicine. His lab focuses on neural regeneration, neuroplasticity, and brain states such as stress, concentration, anxiety, and optimal performance.

(Video) How to Maximize Dopamine & Motivation - Andrew Huberman

In this Huberman Lab episode, Dr. Huberman outlines the science of motivation and drive. He explains dopamine and other chemicals involved in goal-seeking, pleasure, and reward in relation to addiction, how to use behaviors to your advantage, and how to stay motivated long-term.

Host: Andrew Huberman (@hubermanlab)

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

motivation background

  • Motivation and the chemistry of motivation are central to our lives.
  • Without motivation we would not move
  • Motivation balances pleasure and pain
  • There is a link between the dopamine released in the brain and the desire to exert yourself
  • Dopamine is responsible for our motivation and sense of movement.
  • Dopamine is a double-edged sword: responsible for motivation and pleasure, but underlying addiction


  • Novelty is the number one trigger for dopamine release
  • Dopamine is the substrate from which adrenaline (or epinephrine in the brain) is produced, which allows us to perform an action
  • Mesolimbic pathway Also known as reward pathway: ventral tegmental area (VTA) + nucleus accumbens
  • The prefrontal cortex controls how much and when dopamine is released.
  • Dopaminergic neurons fire at a slow rate until you start thinking or wanting something, it can be something as simple as food, coffee, or something more complex.
  • When you're excited or anticipating something, your dopamine trigger rate increases 30-40 times, spurring you into action.
  • Examples of activities and associated dopamine increases:Sex doubles dopamine levels; Nicotine increases dopamine by 150%, cocaine and amphetamines increase dopamine by approximately 1000%, video games can release dopamine anywhere between nicotine and cocaine
  • Think of the activity (sex, food, drugs, etc.) that can sometimes release as much dopamine as the actual act of anything you want.

Pleasure-pain balance and addiction

  • When you anticipate something, a little more dopamine is released; when you participate in something, a little more dopamine is released.
  • When you repeatedly engage in desire, there is a switch from dopamine to pain.
  • A subtle feature of the dopamine system: for every drop of dopamine released, there is a downward distraction reflex from pleasure (pain)
  • Part of the experience is wanting more of what you want.
  • The more you engage in craving, the dopamine decreases and the pain increases, leading to addiction.
  • 15-20% of people have a genetic predisposition to addiction
  • Dopamine is not so much about pleasure as it is about desire and the effort to reduce pain.
  • "A big part of seeking pleasure is simply reducing the desire for pain. Part of the fun is wanting and wanting more of it." –Dr. Andrés Hubermann

Dopamine versus "here and now" molecules

  • The body and brain can direct our attention in or out.
  • Dopamine makes us think about things we don't have; Serotonin, cannabinoids and other "here and now" molecules keep us happy in the present
  • Dopamine makes us focus on things outside of ourselves that we need to pursue; Serotonin makes us think about the here and now.
  • Serotonin is the molecule of happiness and satisfaction for what you already have
  • Altering the dopamine system to release molecules "here and now."
  • Dopamine makes people go after things in a rage; Things that hit the serotonin system (for example, marijuana) are more likely to fill people up.
  • Dopamine can make high achievers manipulative and unlikable: "Dopamine doesn't care how you achieve your goals, it only cares that you achieve your goals."Dr. Andrés Hubermann

procrastination and motivation

  • There is no single source of delay
  • Two types of tappets: (1)People who enjoy the stress of the upcoming deadline, accessing the epinephrine system, which triggers an action in the body;(2)People who just don't release enough dopamine
  • Breaking Type 1 Procrastination– Induce the release of epinephrine: super oxygenated breathing, consuming caffeine, L-tyrosine (through red meat or supplements),
  • Breaking type 2 procrastination– Induce the release of dopamine: Mucuna Pruriens, antidepressant
  • "You can become a person where enough is never enough: all the dopamine wants is to release more dopamine."Dr. Andrés Hubermann
  • Try to associate dopamine with effort rather than the end goal.

dopamine depletion

  • After the release of dopamine, prolactin is released.
  • That is the amount of dopamine that is released when pursuing a goal, finishing a race, before a big meeting, etc.
  • Prolactin is behind things like postpartum depression, disappointment, or depression after the goal, feeling "what's next."
  • The dopamine-prolactin system was first developed for reproduction:After orgasm, prolactin is released and the period of lethargy and rest is created.
  • vitamin B6mizincare strong inhibitors of prolactin
  • There are subjective effects of dopamine:The more you can expand the positive arc of the experience, the more you will compensate for the pain.

reward prediction error

  • Possibility is deeply ingrained in the dopamine system.
  • In the neurological system, surprise, novelty, motivation, and reward release dopamine.
  • Reward prediction error = actual amount of dopamine released in response to something: the expected amount
  • When you tell a child that you "can" have ice cream later, you are effectively telling dopamine that you will eat ice cream; if she doesn't, there's a big drop in dopamine.

Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in Children

  • Medications used to treat ADD and ADHD in children (such as Adderall) have properties similar to those of amphetamines
  • In children, these drugs activate circuits in the forebrain and reduce impulsivity.
  • Impulsivity at age 10 predicts eating disorders later in life
  • The purpose of ADD/ADHD medication: to suppress dopamine release to better control the schedule of dopamine release

dopamine schedule

  • You can control the dopamine schedule to optimize motivation and pleasure.
  • There is some subjectivity in the release of dopamine.
  • Seeing bright lights in the middle of the night lowers dopamine and suppresses reward system activation
  • Separate pleasure from motivation:Dopamine is about the motivation for pleasure, not the ability to experience pleasure.
  • Over-the-counter phenylethylamine (PEA)releases dopamine and serotonin at low levels: improved sense of mental alertness, athletic performance, improved mood and alertness
  • Caffeinemay increase dopamine release in the brain by approximately 30% and have a protective effect

keep chasing goals

  • To ensure you keep up with and exceed past performance: Occasionally remove subjectivity from reward.
  • As you get closer to the goal, bluntly reward the response to intermediate goals
  • Celebrate some wins, but not all - temporarily reduce the bonus effect
  • Not celebrating keeps the dopamine system in check and avoids the big crash and keeps you on the path to higher goals.
  • Intermittent Reinforcement Schedule: Reward yourself every other time, every 10 times, etc.

Maryann's Notes

(Video) NEUROSCIENTIST: You will NEVER LACK Motivation Again

(Video) How to Increase Motivation & Drive | Huberman Lab Podcast #12

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