Andrew Huberman, Rockstar Neuroscientist
September 1, 2023 7:41 AM   Subscribe

Andrew Huberman is having a bit of a moment. An Associate Professor of Neurobiology at Stanford Medical School, Huberman started posting science education content to his nascent Instagram account in 2019.

By 2020, he was a regular guest on other podcasts, and in 2021, he released the first episode of his own podcast, Huberman Lab. Since then, he has released over 150 episodes, and his podcast regularly appears on top podcast lists globally.

Each episode, most around two hours in length, but some stretching to four, features Huberman explaining the physiology and biology of a specific health topic in great detail, followed by a survey of various 'protocols' that may be used to achieve listener's goals. Some feature guest speakers, the majority of whom are prominent scientists or clinicians. Among the episodes are analyses of dopamine, sleep, cannabis, productivity, longevity, and the science of grief.

Huberman's reach and celebrity have extended beyond the podcast sphere. A fawning March profile in GQ described him as 'extremely jacked'. Huberman has inspired at least one Tik Tok meme, the Huberman Husband whose attempts at adopting the professor's 'protocols' are ridiculed by their spouses.

Not all are Huberman fans. There has been criticism of his endorsement and selling of branded supplement bundles, of the prominent advertising on his podcasts, and of his sharing of early stage research without sufficient disclaimers. One columnist declared him a male version of Goop, and his 'protocols' as no more effective than crystals and moon juice.
posted by sid (41 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
huberman gets roasted on the regular by neuroscience twitter for his... fanciful... takes on how the brain works. he's a vision neuroscientist who is leveraging his success in that area to become a media personality talking out his ass about topics in which he has no expertise. his shitty, made-up terms like 'limbic friction' are practically engineered to tap into the techbro 'splainer market.

fuck huberman
posted by logicpunk at 7:59 AM on September 1, 2023 [28 favorites]


"a [specialist with some degree] in an unrelated field who is leveraging his success in that area to become a media personality talking out his ass to disaffected young men about topics in which he has no expertise"

Doing a Peterson Maneuver, we should start calling this. "He's at the shilling-nutritional-paste stage of the peterson maneuver."
posted by mhoye at 8:14 AM on September 1, 2023 [22 favorites]


a male version of Goop
...
engineered to tap into the techbro 'splainer market
...

Ctrl-F "Joe Rogan". Shocked, shocked.
posted by The Bellman at 8:25 AM on September 1, 2023 [6 favorites]


He sure showed an early proclivity towards the high-profile mind candy.

The most interesting thing to me about him is the superposition of his sell-out faux-sceince GooPeterson persona, and a continuing thread of legit peer-reviewed actual science. This bimodality is evident in his publications. You could argue that turning towards retinal regeneration is goop-y, but you'd just end up arguing, really. And that thread of real science means continuous NIH funding, training grad students, etc, etc .... so it's hard to claim that he's sold out.
posted by Dashy at 8:30 AM on September 1, 2023


Conspirituality did a good episode (with J. Jarry) on his schtick.
posted by progosk at 8:50 AM on September 1, 2023 [3 favorites]


I watched a Huberman video with Robert Sapolsky, probably this one, because it turned up in an odd link posted by a friend. Huberman comes off like somebody who was self-educated on youtube. Looked him up; he has a PhD in neuroscience, and an asst. professorship at Stanford is non-trivial. I'm a big fan of Sapolsky; read Primate's Memoir if you haven't. Huberman was self-aggrandizing but not a complete idiot.

If you are interested in brainssss, this is cool - Impressive video of two brain cells having a chat.
This is the way our brain thinks and creates! The beauty of nature.

/twitter.com/i/status/1696007263142523319
posted by theora55 at 8:56 AM on September 1, 2023 [3 favorites]


Given the standards of academic research, the publication process, and the incentives to p hack, our baseline expectation is that most published work is shitty, and IMO academic success most likely means you got some results that people liked. Huberman is a product of all of that, and more.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 9:12 AM on September 1, 2023 [1 favorite]


Remember Sam Harris? As I recall he was another one of the of “trying to turn neuroscience clout into a media brand” move, and wound up shilling for fascists.
posted by Jon_Evil at 9:18 AM on September 1, 2023 [10 favorites]


He's a guru on the rise. Making the paleo-meating eating podcat circuit rounds on Youtube.

He'll probably be replaced by another mesomorphic white guy in six months. Seen this several times on Youtube.
posted by KaizenSoze at 9:28 AM on September 1, 2023 [6 favorites]


Forget it Jake. It’s Stanford.
posted by ursus_comiter at 9:39 AM on September 1, 2023 [10 favorites]


The difference between him and Harris is that Huberman has actual academic credentials and accomplishments. Harris was born rich, bought himself into a PhD program, and produced nothing while there.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 9:45 AM on September 1, 2023 [3 favorites]


I listened to an episode of Huberman Labs based on the recommendation from a family member. Not really my thing, but I appreciate that he is something of a whisperer to the "Joe Rogan Crowd", and might lead some of them away from the truly toxic alpha MMALE dick-measuring of Rogan to the less toxic Yoga Nidra-practicing, introspective conversation-having, "fully optimized" algae-drinking Huberman Ideal. Again: not really my thing, but it seems ok and certainly better than the culturally adjacent alternatives.
posted by a_curious_koala at 9:46 AM on September 1, 2023 [4 favorites]


Anecdotally I listened to every single episode of the HubermanLab podcast for several months after it came out in 2021 when I was going through a difficult time mentally, and still listen to an episode here and there. I really enjoyed it and the takeaways I got from listening to him discuss various topics relevant to me and implementing some "protocols" were immensely beneficial in terms of making several extremely positive behavioral changes in my life, overcoming addiction not the least of them.
posted by firefly5 at 9:56 AM on September 1, 2023 [16 favorites]


Reading all these comments re: Rogen and other 'menfluencers' and 'broey' 'body optimization' culture is interesting to me as in my circle, for whatever reason, the biggest of Huberman fans are women, mostly crunchy left of center moms who are into fitness and yoga.
posted by sid at 9:57 AM on September 1, 2023


... Harris was born rich, bought himself into a PhD program, and produced nothing while there.

Really? I hadn't known that.

It says something that I am relieved to learn about this dude because he isn't selling misogyny or racism. Yet, anyway. But what was particularly interesting to me was that the NY Times article touched on the idea of fitness being "effete" back in the day, at least among high-powered men like LBJ. It's been a signifier of status for most of my life, and I forget easily. I wonder what, if anything, that might have had to do with the real audience for "bodybuilding" and "physique" magazines back in the 50s and 60s.
posted by Countess Elena at 10:19 AM on September 1, 2023 [1 favorite]


our baseline expectation is that most published work is shitty
posted by MisantropicPainforest

eponysterical enough
posted by Dashy at 10:25 AM on September 1, 2023


Is Huberman having a moment or broment? I'd take him more seriously if he wasn't always out-angle flexing.

A lot of the basic stuff that he and Peter Attia say seems perfectly reasonable to me but I just can't stand the milligrams of this and milligrams of that supplement stuff or the fact that they seem to run blood tests every couple of days. First 99% of the population can't afford that (Attia at least runs an anti-aging practice for billionaires & celebs that is super secret). Second if you spend all your time optimizing and yak shaving for longevity you don't actually live longer, you just last longer.
posted by srboisvert at 10:43 AM on September 1, 2023 [3 favorites]


My biggest issue with Huberman is that he isn't a great interviewer. He gets in the way of not only his guests, but himself. His podcast would be 40 minutes if you cut out the repetition and redundancy. It can be quite a frustrating listen.
posted by lyam at 10:51 AM on September 1, 2023 [1 favorite]


fuck huberman

He's at the shilling-nutritional-paste stage of the peterson maneuver.

IMO academic success most likely means you got some results that people liked


Metafilter tends to over-correct when there's a whiff of "bro"-culture in the air. Andrew Huberman isn't your doctor. If everyone in media were honest when reporting on health issues, the last line would always be "We're not sure, this stuff is complicated" but who wants to listen to a podcast like that?
posted by gwint at 10:57 AM on September 1, 2023 [14 favorites]


I find him to be a perplexing figure, for sure. Some of his advice, like avoiding your phone in the morning, getting natural light, and looking at a faraway view seems really reasonable. Then again a lot of weird-ass (sometimes quite sinister) shit seems really reasonable on the surface. He seems willing to engage with the manosphere while also appearing to believe women are human beings? Could he potentially be a less bad example to the men who follow him? Or is he more of a stop along the self-improvement-to-fascist pipeline? I'm honestly not willing to listen to hours upon hours of men talking to find out, but I also don't think you need rock-hard science to try a new habit that might help you out as long as it's not extreme or in opposition to actual medical advice.

(I indeed found out about him from a "Huberman husband" tiktok)
posted by lampoil at 11:04 AM on September 1, 2023


He seems a bit wellness woo-y, but I think he's quite few steps better than Peterson or Rogan, in that's he's not both belligerent and a dumbass.
posted by fleacircus at 11:15 AM on September 1, 2023 [4 favorites]


If everyone in media were honest when reporting on health issues, the last line would always be "We're not sure, this stuff is complicated" but who wants to listen to a podcast like that?

Nobody, because podcasts are not places where people should get health advice. Then again, America has made it prohibitively expensive to get health advice from not-podcasts, so what do we expect?
posted by Jon_Evil at 11:17 AM on September 1, 2023 [2 favorites]


The sleep episode doesn't seem so bad (AI-generated summary), all things you would get from a Wikihow page. Although he seems to be rebranding yogic sleep with his own "NSDR" acronym.
posted by credulous at 11:28 AM on September 1, 2023


I don't understand the hate and perceived association with various bro-subcultures. They've certainly latched onto him and seem to hear things he's not actually saying, but he's doesn't seem to be working to attract them. I am not a fan of Rogan but I have no need to vilify every person who has been on that show.

He's a smart guy who enables smarter people to share their expertise with the public. He doesn't pretend to be an expert in the fields of his guests but he knows enough to ask decent questions and explain terms that he suspects his listeners won't understand. He is happy to be corrected and doesn't shy away from telling people that a particular piece of info is from recent study that needs more research. Sure, like the majority of podcasters he has sponsors but he also says things like, "the goal is to not need any supplements at all."

At worst he's not the best interviewer. His interview with Rick Rubin was painful and should have been edited to 90% Rick and 10% Andrew. But his more recent episode with Dr. David Linden showed real growth and an ability to be compassionate discussing death with a dying man. Best of all he introduced me to the wonderful Maya Shankar and her podcast, A Slight Change of Plans.
posted by J-Garr at 11:36 AM on September 1, 2023 [5 favorites]


Countess Elena: But what was particularly interesting to me was that the NY Times article touched on the idea of fitness being "effete" back in the day, at least among high-powered men like LBJ.

I wonder if there's a difference between the descendants of the slave-owning and yeoman-farmer cultures in America. I'm thinking of how American football was basically invented at Yale and Harvard, and the whole cult of the well-to-do amateur athlete.
posted by clawsoon at 11:37 AM on September 1, 2023 [2 favorites]


But his more recent episode with Dr. David Linden showed real growth and an ability to be compassionate discussing death with a dying man.

From what I've seen of Joe Rogan, he has high emotional intelligence. He can be a thoughtful, caring interviewer. I think it's a good demonstration of the fact that emotional intelligence doesn't prevent you from being an important part of the far-right radicalization pipeline.
posted by clawsoon at 11:45 AM on September 1, 2023 [3 favorites]


MetaFilter actually become familiar with the subject of the article before calling him a fascist challenge: Impossible

People who say that Huberman is a bro-fluencer like Rogan probably haven't listened to his 3 hour long podcast with Dr. Rena Malik about female sexual health, lol. Or his (multiple) episodes about menopause. Imagine Rogan even saying the word "tampon" out loud.

Huberman's basic advice is robust and I'm sure something that 99% of people could adopt in some way into their life to make things a little easier for themselves.

That being said he is a pretty horrible interviewer, although I personally find it slightly endearing how awkward he can be.

Here's a tip regarding Huberman: if you watch YouTube clips titled things like "These Nine Daily Choices Will Change Your Life And EXPLODE Your Testosterone Daily (#8 Will SHOCK You)," you're obviously not going to get a lot out of it because it's being edited and cherrypicked by video creators whose entire expertise is in exploiting online recommendation algorithms and our lizard brains.

If I have to choose between manly podcasters who recommend things like Questioning The Vaccine Narrative versus Hey Maybe Drink a Little Less Alcohol But Don't Beat Yourself Up About it, I know which one I'm picking every day of the week.
posted by Cpt. The Mango at 11:51 AM on September 1, 2023 [8 favorites]


People who say that Huberman is a bro-fluencer like Rogan probably haven't listened to his 3 hour long podcast with Dr. Rena Malik about female sexual health, lol. Or his (multiple) episodes about menopause.

And I guess this is a good demonstration of the fact that being a decent person who's doing good in the world doesn't prevent you from becoming a bit of a charlatan. :-)
posted by clawsoon at 12:01 PM on September 1, 2023 [1 favorite]


Stronger by Science had an episode covering the history and research surrounding creatine and they briefly mention Huberman. apparently Huberman takes 10g a day (recommended dosing is 3-5g) based on... not a lot of research and the SBSpod episode notes that 5g dosing is beyond sufficient for someone the size of an NFL lineman (so he's way over) and additionally that 10g daily is well below the dose that's been shown to maybe, possibly improve cognitive functioning. ie he's taking a pseudoscientific dose based on not really much evidence for who knows what reason

which is to say - I'm sure Huberman is much less problematic compared to the typical brofluencer. but there's still this pervasive performative masculinity that I've noticed in his demeanor that's a big turnoff for me along with this sort-of-backed-by-science lifestyle advice

for me at least, until he releases an episode along the lines of two super strong nerds discussing research methodology, the hierarchy of evidence, and essentially is an academic lecture on basic scientific literacy so that his listeners are given the tools to criticize what he says himself, I'll give him a pass
posted by paimapi at 12:46 PM on September 1, 2023 [2 favorites]


If everyone in media were honest when reporting on health issues, the last line would always be "We're not sure, this stuff is complicated" but who wants to listen to a podcast like that?

The journalist Alex Hutchinson is great precisely because he does exactly this. Typical article is: Here's an study and what it suggests. Here's why we might not believe it - most commonly, because of study flaws or because it contradicts other research. Finally, an educated guess on what it implies athletes should do, given our uncertainty.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 1:35 PM on September 1, 2023 [2 favorites]


But his more recent episode with Dr. David Linden showed real growth and an ability to be compassionate discussing death with a dying man.

From what I've seen of Joe Rogan, he has high emotional intelligence. He can be a thoughtful, caring interviewer. I think it's a good demonstration of the fact that emotional intelligence doesn't prevent you from being an important part of the far-right radicalization pipeline.


This was a bit ambiguous, but I think J-Garr was referring to Huberman, not Rogan, as an interviewer here.
posted by egregious theorem at 4:57 PM on September 1, 2023


Whether his content meets a certain standard of accuracy isn't the point of the critical columns. Their aim is to make it untenable to present as both bro and intelligent. The idea is to create aggregates of traits such that {liberal, progressive, inclusive, science-respecting, authoritative, urban, androgynous, intelligent} and {bro, masculine, racist, right-wing, rural, stupid, huckster} become archetypes so that people assume one trait in a cluster implies the other traits. It's pretty cynical and does not well serve guys that identify as guys.
posted by Mr. Gunn at 5:46 PM on September 1, 2023 [2 favorites]


Some of the vitriol in these comments makes me second-guess the credulity with which I've swallowed Metafilter's criticisms of other media personalities, in past FPPs ...

As someone who's actually listened to several of his podcast episodes, at the recommendation of my physiotherapist, I think he's fine. The majority of his podcast episodes involve him interviewing researchers and professors who have substantial expertise in the subject he's talking about. Though he definitely is trying to gain cred by positioning himself as a scientist and researcher (whereas I think it would be more appropriate in the podcast context to present himself as an interviewer with above-average expertise).

There is an ad segment in each of his podcasts where he unapologetically shills for the podcast's sponsor, a supplements company. It's clearly labelled, though, and when he rounds up his research recommendations, he identifies supplements by their chemical names and doesn't endorse specific products or brands. I wasn't even aware that he was selling sleep supplement bundles (as noted in the Guardian article). The timestamps in the podcast certainly make it possible to listen to the information and avoid all of the advertising. Most of his recommendations are for actions you can take, not for products you can buy: getting sunlight first thing in the morning, exercise and meal timing, breathing techniques, that kind of thing.

On the level of personality, he's annoyingly into productivity and achievement, but so are 80% of people living under corporate capitalism. I have never heard him espouse any right-wing ideologies on the podcast; he treats the women he interviews with just as much respect and enthusiasm as the men; and he seems to be very fond of his dog, finding a lot of excuses to mention how cute and funny it is.

I think the criticisms the FPP linked in the Guardian and McGill articles are fair. If dietary supplements are effective enough to help, they're also effective enough to harm, and he doesn't shy away from recommending supplements or "protocols" for which the evidence is very new and unstudied. Even though he uses the proper disclaimers (I'm not your doctor, this research is new, etc.) it's naive to think that the layman wouldn't be biased towards his personal recommendations.

But in general, I think that Huberman is getting some unwarranted spillover from the (justified) anger people have at other podcast figures.
posted by fire, water, earth, air at 7:18 PM on September 1, 2023 [3 favorites]


Sometimes a self-improvement wellness guru selling overpriced supplements and just-asking-questions about the safety of sunscreen and promoting bogus studies about cold immersion therapy... is just another online personality chasing clicks.

But when you're wearing rose-colored glasses, red flags just look like flags.
posted by AlSweigart at 5:21 AM on September 2, 2023 [5 favorites]


I mean there are sunscreens that are designed for children because there’s stuff in adult sunscreen that isn’t great for them?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 5:24 AM on September 2, 2023


And before people jump on me with "he didn't say avoid all sunscreen, but just the ones that have chemicals that pass the blood-brain barrier blah blah blah" yeah, okay, cool. And Dr. Mr. Andrew Wakefield said that he wasn't against vaccines, but it was just the combined MMR vaccine that caused autism.

And then he backpedaled into full-on antivax because that's where he could get money when he was struck off the medical register for his medical quackery.
posted by AlSweigart at 6:04 AM on September 2, 2023 [1 favorite]


> I mean there are sunscreens that are designed for children because there’s stuff in adult sunscreen that isn’t great for them?

Ooof. I was too late.

Is there even a difference between “kid” and “adult” sunscreen? In a nutshell: No. Though many “kids’” sunscreens tend to be mineral-based because they’re less likely to cause irritation.

It has nothing to do with chemicals that cross the blood-brain barrier and stay in the brain 10 years later.

SEE. THIS IS THE PROBLEM WITH HUBERMAN'S ADVICE. RIGHT HERE. THIS. This "just asking questions" style of "this isn't medical or dietary advice" medical and dietary advice podcasts.
posted by AlSweigart at 6:09 AM on September 2, 2023 [6 favorites]


Sorry. I get upset when people dismiss harmful things with "what's the harm?" excuses. I'm still irked from the "well of course advertisements lie, but that's no reason to sue them for false advertisement" comments in the fast food post a couple days ago.

I think I've said all I've had to on this thread. I'll back off.
posted by AlSweigart at 8:07 AM on September 2, 2023 [2 favorites]


The sunscreen thing seems pretty in line with my impression of this guy, in that it’s based in a real area of research (even as far as the “crosses the BBB” claim, I think) but spiced up with a bit of untestable sensationalism (the “ten years later” claim) and with a sort of “not that I’m making a medical recommendation but here’s what I do pseudo-recommendation). At the same time I don’t know that it’s really worse than much of the rest of the popular science press, and I don’t think it’s inherently irresponsible to discuss these speculative concerns in a conversational format - it just seems like it’s the nature of the business to reward sensationalism and contrarianism in a way that ends up at least a bit irresponsible.
posted by atoxyl at 10:41 AM on September 2, 2023 [1 favorite]


I have listened to a handful of these, and found that when he talks about things that I actually know about, in general he is pretty good. Not offering much advice beyond what is reasonable, lots of caveats, and so on. However, his style of questioning is absolutely absurd. Sometimes the questions are more than a minute long, and completely obliterate whatever the first bit he was asking!

I really enjoyed how excited he was to interview his childhood friend Dr. Eddie Chang, as well, it was quite endearing.
posted by fizban at 10:47 AM on September 2, 2023


Also, skimming through his videos to find the one with Dr. Eddie reminded me of this classic video from the dawn of optimal bulletproof eating: Bulletproof Sandwich
posted by fizban at 10:50 AM on September 2, 2023


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