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

In this episode, my guest is Robert Malenka, MD, PhD, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford School of Medicine who has made numerous seminal discoveries of how the brain changes (neuroplasticity) in response to learning and in response to rewarding and reinforcing experiences. We discuss the brain’s several reward systems involving dopamine and serotonin and how these motivate us to seek out specific behaviors and substances. We discuss how these reward systems are modified based on context and our memories, and how they can be hijacked toward maladaptive drug seeking in addiction. We also explore how reward systems influence social connections, oxytocin and empathy and how that applies to our understanding of autism spectrum disorders. This episode should be of interest to those interested in neuroplasticity, social bonding, addiction, autism, learning and motivation.

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Dr. Robert Malenka
Stanford academic profile: https://profiles.stanford.edu/robert-malenka
Publications: https://profiles.stanford.edu/robert-malenka?tab=publications
Current clinical trial: https://clinicaltrials.stanford.edu/trials/e/NCT03841682.html
MapLight: https://maplightrx.com/team/robert-malenka
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/robert-malenka-09b3a016b

Distinct neural mechanisms for the prosocial and rewarding properties of MDMA: https://bit.ly/3PNs2ze
Oxytocin receptor is not required for social attachment in prairie voles: https://bit.ly/3XLguOZ
Gating of social reward by oxytocin in the ventral tegmental area: https://bit.ly/3rigeee
Anterior cingulate inputs to nucleus accumbens control the social transfer of pain and analgesia: https://bit.ly/44z3qP1
Social reward requires coordinated activity of nucleus accumbens oxytocin and serotonin: https://go.nature.com/44iOQvl
Selective filtering of excitatory inputs to nucleus accumbens by dopamine and serotonin: https://bit.ly/44UG8n1
Serotonin receptor regulation as a potential mechanism for sexually dimorphic oxytocin dysregulation in a model of Autism: https://bit.ly/44DS24e
5-HT modulation of a medial septal circuit tunes social memory stability: https://go.nature.com/3rjlXk7

Other Resources
MapLight: https://maplightrx.com
Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS): https://maps.org
MindMed: https://mindmed.co

00:00:00 Dr. Robert Malenka
00:02:37 Sponsors: ROKA & Levels
00:05:21 Dopamine & Reward Circuitry
00:11:31 Reward, Arousal, Memory & Dopamine
00:17:34 Context, Cues & Dopamine Modification
00:25:38 Memory & Reward Scaling
00:30:50 Dopamine, “Addictive Liability” & Route of Administration
00:39:07 Sponsor: AG1
00:40:04 Drugs of Abuse & Brain Changes; Addiction & Individual Variability
00:50:51 Reinforcement vs. Reward, Wanting vs. Liking
00:57:50 Opioids, Psychostimulants & Dopamine
01:03:38 Sponsor: LMNT
01:04:51 Self-Doubt, Confidence & Career
01:12:40 Autism Spectrum Disorder
01:19:29 Pro-Social Interaction & Reward; Oxytocin, Serotonin & Dopamine
01:30:30 Nucleus Accumbens & Behavior Probability
01:38:28 Reward for Pro-Social Behavior
01:43:13 Social Media & “Addictive Liability”; Gambling
01:52:17 Pain, Social Behavior & Empathy
02:02:19 Empathy Circuitry, Dopamine & Serotonin
02:10:07 Autism Spectrum Disorder & Social Interactions, Empathy
02:17:23 MDMA, Serotonin & Dopamine; Addiction & Pro-Social Effects
02:28:13 Autism Spectrum Disorder, Social Behavior, MDMA & Pharmacology
02:37:18 Serotonin, MDMA & Psychedelics
02:40:16 Psychedelics: Research & Therapeutic Potential
02:47:57 Zero-Cost Support, YouTube Feedback, Spotify & Apple Reviews, Sponsors, Momentous, Social Media, Neural Network Newsletter

Title Card Photo Credit: Mike Blabac – https://www.blabacphoto.com

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