Unlocking The Mysteries Of Neurophysiology with Toby Pasman


Today on the Mindful Space, we are talking to a newer scientist who will help us explore the mysteries of the brain, how we can stimulate it, and what all this means for understanding how our minds work. We will also dive in into common misconceptions about newer stimulation and how mindfulness practices can alter your brain. It will be interesting to talk about the science surrounding how the brain works and the potential for personal transformation.

Welcome back to another episode of the Mindful Space. Today we have Toby Passman. How are you today? I’m great, Michelle.

How are you? Great. Thank you for coming. Of course. Thank you for having me.

Of course. Let’s start in the beginning. I know a lot of people might not know who you are, so can you please introduce yourself? What you do professionally, personally?

Yes. So my background is in neurophysiology research. I’m a neurophysiology researcher, and really what got me into learning about the brain into neuroscience and psychology was dealing with my own mental health issues back growing up. In middle school and high school, I dealt with quite a lot of social anxiety. It was very awkward. I could have never imagined myself in the position I’m in right now talking. I was trying to say this, I’m like, okay.

Yeah. People nowadays have no idea, but before I was really crippled by social anxiety, I could barely talk to another dude in the class, let alone the pretty girl that I wanted to talk to. So it really caused a lot of issues within my life, and I also had my family was affected by mental illness. I lost a family member to mental illness, and that really impacted me too growing up.

So I think that really laid the foundation of just knowing that it was a personal passion of mine to really work on my own problems, and I had no idea that it would then turn into an entire career. But that’s what happened after I got involved in a research lab, basically at my university, and started learning all about EEG, which is basically a way to measure people’s brainwaves. It measures the electrical rhythms that generate our thoughts, emotions, behaviors, and cognitive abilities. So I learned all about EEG research and how to actually analyze the data, and then after college got more involved in the clinical space, working at substance abuse centers, mental health clinics, and peak performance centers, utilizing these technologies, and also working after work, utilizing them on myself, and actually seeing that I was able to actually make a huge impact on my own social anxiety through neurofeedback training, which is one of the main modalities that I now incorporate into my work.

So it was just seeing my own transformation and then countless people from all walks of life that I’ve worked with benefit themselves too. Yeah, I mean, I want to hear more about this because I do not know how things he just said. I’m just kidding.

No, but I want to understand it better, right? And I love that you were able to use it on yourself. Now, you are a double-board certified neuro…

I want to say this… neurophysiology? Yeah. Oh my god. Hey, double-board certified neurophysiology trainer. Can you explain what that means? Yes. Sounds fancy. It’s kind of a complicated title there, but basically what my job is now is I train people’s brains. So my background with the research, I caught a couple board certifications, one in brain mapping, which is basically a way to measure people’s brainwave activity.

It runs basically when you record what’s called an EEG, so an electroencephalogram. This has been around since like the 1930s. I’ve heard about that. I’ve heard about it.

Yeah. So brain mapping is basically a way to take that EEG data and transpose it so that you can actually visualize to see areas of the brain that are either too low, too high, or producing healthy amounts of activity, and also look at different… how different networks in the brain are communicating, the balance of like the left and right hemisphere. It tells us a whole lot of other metrics. So I really got deep into that space, just learning about different brainwave patterns, because there’s certain signatures that you can see on people’s brain maps that are indicative of anxiety, ADHD, depression, PTSD, traumatic brain injury. So all of these things, they have brainwave signatures that you can actually analyze with this technology. And then the other certification I have is in neurofeedback. And neurofeedback is basically guided based on someone’s brain map, once we’re able to know which brainwaves that they may have dysregulation and say someone comes to me and they’re wanting to improve their focus. Oftentimes people will have deficits in a brainwave called beta. That’s really important for focus and concentration.

So with neurofeedback, we can actually train someone’s brain to increase its production of those beta brainwaves and actually help people self-regulate and improve their focus completely naturally without any external thing. Sounds easy, but it’s not. How do you start about that?

How would you even start to train someone? For example, that’s specific to beta one. Right. So it all starts with an initial brain map, because there’s a famous psychiatrist, Dr. Daniel Amon, who basically says this, how do you know unless you look? What do you… like psychiatry being the only medical profession that doesn’t actually examine the organ in which they’re looking at. So without knowing areas, which area of someone’s brain is dysregulated and which frequency someone needs either more of or less of, it’s kind of more like shooting in the dark and just trying to train someone with some protocol that might work for some people, might not work too well for other people, could actually make some people’s symptoms worse. So that’s why it’s so critical to start with that brain map, because that gives a roadmap to understanding each person’s unique neurophysiology and basically pairing… it’s not necessarily just mind reading.

It’s… I am measuring people’s minds. There’s data behind it.

There’s data. It’s measuring the neurophysiology data and pairing that with people’s subjective experiences. So if someone is telling me that they have issues with their short-term memory and then we also see issues with the temporal lobes… Yeah, so… Yeah, so… So when we pair that with the findings of temporal lobe issues, the temporal lobes that sit right above and behind the ears are kind of the memory centers of the brain.

So connecting the dots there, if someone’s reporting those symptoms and they have that kind of issue seen on their brain map, then we really are able to know, okay, this is where someone needs to train their brain and then we can go about starting to work with them. Yeah, it sounds so fascinating to me. Can you explain to us a little bit more of your background in neuroscience? Yeah, so I studied psychology and undergrad. I would have studied neuroscience, except at the time there was no undergraduate neuroscience program. They literally came out with one like two years after I graduated.

I was so salty about that. Yeah, but really actually, you know, starting college, I started as a business major, like a lot of people not knowing what they want to do, right? And it wasn’t until like I took a biopsychology class in undergrad that really piqued my curiosity in terms like understanding how the brain works on an electrical and chemical level.

So really understanding that we can actually measure people’s neurobiology, that was so fascinating to me because I never excelled. I was good in school. I never excelled. I never excelled in science. Science was my worst subject in high school. I remember like, I barely even taught.

I may have failed like one of those state like standardized topics that you do on the computer. Biology, chemistry, that was not my subject. It wasn’t until it was actually like the human biology and brain biology that I started getting really, really fascinated by. And then, you know, kind of outside of undergrad, I got a master’s in psychology just to go deeper. But really like, I think psychology is great. But to me, it’s, you know, a bit theoretical where I like that, you know, actual tangible data, the science. So I kind of see what I do now is kind of blending together the worlds of psychology, biology, human physiology, you know, all into one. And that was like the research lab that I worked at.

It was a combination of people with all of those different backgrounds. Oh my God. Yeah.

And you’re able to combine all three in a field, especially nowadays. Yeah. I think it’s more talk to a more acceptable too. Doesn’t have to be just one thing, right? Right.

There’s lots of like cross disciplinary integration. Yeah. Yeah. Can you explain briefly the world of neuro stimulation?

Yes. So neuro stimulation, it sounds a lot scarier than it is when people hear, okay, we’re going to pass an electrical current through their brain. It kind of sounds a little bit scary, right? Sketchy. Sketchy.

Yeah. People think like one flew over the cuckoo’s nest back like the 1950s, 60s, like electroconvulsive therapy, which crazy enough, they actually still use up to this day for like cases of really severe treatment resistant depression. Comes with a slew of side effects, but it is effective in cases when people have tried all sorts of other things that haven’t worked. But really, neuro stimulation has evolved much further than those sort of elementary basics. So for instance, just to give you some reference, like the neuro stimulation equipment that I use today that’s commonly used is usually somewhere between one to two milliamps of electricity, the current.

Now to give you some reference, like electroconvulsive therapy uses 600 to 700 milliamps. So it’s like completely resetting the brain. Like it’s major, whereas this is just a mild, you know, electrical stimulation. It’s shock.

Yeah. Rather than like a crazy shock. It’s more like in training the brain to basically, there’s a lot of ways to entrain the brain that we can get into. But one way is with neuro stimulation.

So you can actually teach people’s brains. For instance, like we talked about those beta brain waves that are really important for focus, you can actually run a neuro stimulation protocol where the stimulation is going, say at 20 cycles per second, 20 hertz, which is that correlates to a beta brain wave rhythm because beta is between like 13 to 30 cycles per second. So you can actually do a neuro stimulation protocol that can then basically entrain someone’s brain waves to create those that they’re lacking to create more. And neuro stimulation also does some really cool things in terms of increasing neuroplasticity.

It actually, yeah, it actually drives. You were talking about how it’s like neuroplasticity. So it causes calcium and sodium ion surges in the brain, which actually drives neurogenesis. So helping the brain create new neurons and new connections amongst those cells, which is a super cool effect that you can get from that.

They found that people with higher rates of neurogenesis have less depression, less anxiety, overall better mental health and well-being. So it’s a great modality that’s a really powerful tool that I think not many people have heard about. And it’s not used nearly as much as neurofeedback, which is the main training modality that I work with currently, but at the same time- They’re still being used.

Yeah, it’s still a very, very powerful one. What benefits, well, we already talked about the benefits of neuro stimulation. Can you explain what it would like? What does it entail? What would it look like? I come in, do my brain map. Yeah, we would do your brain map. Pessing some beta there.

Yes. So we would know with neuro stimulation, basically there’s an anode and a cathode. So the anode is the positively charged electrode. So wherever we place that, the area of the brain is going to get stimulated. It’s going to be more blood flow and oxygen is going to flow to that specific area. So if we saw under activity in your brain map at a specific location, we could place the anode at that area. Whereas if we saw over activity, we could place the cathode at that area.

So the cathode is the negatively charged electrode. It’s actually going to inhibit brain activity wherever you place it. So it increases the production of GABA, our main inhibitory neurotransmitter. GABA is what alcohol acts on, different sedatives like benzos act on GABA to really help quiet and calm brain activity. So you can actually do that with neuro stimulation. Once you know the area, you know, areas of the brain that are too active, you can calm them down, areas that are not active enough, you can help increase their activity. So in regards to mental health and what benefits it can bring, that would be one of them, right?

Exactly. There’s research, anxiety, depression, PTSD. With neuro stimulation, they’ve looked at traumatic brain injuries. And really across the board, there’s a lot of cool studies too, just in terms of general cognitive enhancement. They’ve found like specific montages, which is basically the placement of where you put like the anode and cathode.

So in research that they’ve measured, you know, where you place the anode, where you place the cathode, they’ve been able to increase like present moment awareness, increase insight and creative like insight, as well as actually improve mathematical abilities. So there’s all sorts of like really cool stuff you can do with it. That sounds cool. Yeah, it’s super cool. Yeah, so you basically have in terms of fully answering your question, what it would actually look like, I’d basically place, it’s kind of odd that there’s the unit that I work with, you basically, there’s like a couple electrodes that you actually need to soak them in a saltwater solution for them to actually conduct.

Water electricity. Yeah, right. It doesn’t usually, they don’t usually play well, right?

The stick surrounding it. Don’t we do it? Yeah, right.

Maybe so. Yeah, the saltwater basically just enables the electrodes to actually conduct the electrical current, but it basically dump them in the saltwater, squeeze it out and then put the electrodes on your head, and then put a cap over your head just to kind of put everything in place. And then you would start feeling when we turn the machine on, you would start feeling kind of a mild tingling or even itching sensation. So it’s not painful. It’s not a shock. But you do definitely feel it.

Yeah, so. Straight. I was like, I don’t want to try it.

Oh my God. And then you said you mainly work with neurofeedback. Yeah, so.

Yeah, explain a little bit more. Yeah, so neurofeedback basically is able to record people’s brain waves in the same way that the brain scan, like the brain map, is able to do that. But then neurofeedback is also able to provide direct feedback on how someone’s brain is doing. For instance, if we’re, you know, keep, if we keep along with that analogy or example of someone wanting to improve their focus and increase their beta brain waves, we could actually program in our computer on the system to help reward someone’s brain when they get into that focused state. So how that reward would look is you’d be playing some kind of game, like kind of a video game on a phone or tablet or even like watching something on Netflix.

Take the game, for example, you’d be playing some video game. I like this one that’s like a UFO where you’re trying to get the UFO to like fly upwards and you’re trying to get the wind noise to get louder. So basically whenever your brain gets into the desired brain wave pattern, for instance, it starts producing more of those beta waves, you get into a really focused, highly concentrated state, then you would see the UFO start to fly up and the wind, the sound would get louder. So through the use of both audio and visual feedback, it can actually encourage your brain to produce more of those healthy brain waves.

And it can also do the reverse. If we wanted to teach your brain, say for example, oftentimes people with anxiety, trouble sleeping, OCD, thinking of all like the opposite. Yeah, they oftentimes too focused, no, literally, and it often manifests as too much beta activity, particularly high beta, which is like quote unquote the bad beta. So when people have that pattern, we would actually teach their brain to produce less of that beta brain wave activity. So whenever their brain got into that beta state, they would actually lose the reward. So the UFO would would not fly high, you would not hear the sound.

Yes, yes. So you can directly help encourage the brain, you can reward the brain when it’s getting into its desired state. And you can kind of take that reward away when the brain deviates and starts producing unhealthy rhythms. How many times do you have to do this for you to see effect? Yeah, it’s recommended.

Yeah, so it’s a great question. Sometimes from the first neurofeedback session, people might feel a little bit calmer, a little more relaxed. Really, when it comes to like three to five sessions, people really start to notice the benefits. But typical neurofeedback protocols, I recommend anywhere, and most clinicians recommend anywhere between 20 to 40, sometimes even 16 neurofeedback sessions to see really long lasting, significant changes, both in someone’s brain map, along with just their subjective experience. Because what we’re doing is basically helping the brain create these new neural pathways. And those pathways need to be repetitively trained.

Like I always use the example or analogy of exercise, where if you go to the gym, if you’re not normally working out, and you go to the gym one time and you lift, it doesn’t matter how, how hard you go, no matter how hard you train, you’re not going to wake up the next day with a perfect physique. So you wish. And that’s what a lot of people wish with mental health. That’s why I like people, pop pills, and it gives them an instant effect. Neurofeedback is not that, not that way at all. It’s a more subtle, gradual training, but it can really correct the underlying problems that are driving people to self medicate, or to use different prescription medications to cover up those problems. Because if you can get to the underlying electrophysiological problems, you can really kind of get to the very root cause of a lot of people’s issues. What do you see the most in regards to mental health diagnosis being treated? Like what is, is it good for one thing and not the other?

Or it can really work across? Like what do you see the most with your clients? Yeah, with clients, right now with my business NeuroFlex, I mainly work with executives and entrepreneurs who are looking to optimize their productivity, minimize distraction.

A lot of them have ADD, a lot of them have anxiety. I’m not specifically doing a treatment because my focus with my company is basically peak performance. So kind of that biohacking space. Even though there is plenty of research that, and I’ve used all these things to treat different conditions, but I am not a licensed clinician myself. And the reason being is my interest was, I was a biohacker myself, and I was mainly interested in that, you know, wellness, peak performance application of these technologies.

So I can’t specifically claim to be treating someone’s anxiety or their depression, even though the technology has tons of research. But you see that they correlate. Absolutely.

Start saying that people. Yes. Yes.

Makes sense. Can you explain a little bit more into depth how brain mapping works? And what is it useful?

You kind of already said what is it used for, but just more into depth for the people that have no idea that I’ve never seen this. Of course. Yeah. So basically what people need to understand is their brain communicates both on a chemical and electrical level. In order to accurately measure the chemicals that are in your brain, we would have to do a spinal tap, which is not going to be an easy service to market.

I don’t think anyone’s going to want a spinal tap. So that for that reason, the majority of research has been done utilizing or basically measuring the brain wave activity, measuring the electrical rhythms that the brain uses to communicate with itself. So through the use of this technology, we’re able to actually pick up those tiny electrical signals that emanate from the brain up to the surface of the scalp. So with the use of this, it’s like a swim cap looking device, this EEG cap that sits on someone’s head. I squirt some gel into each of the little electrode sites, wiggle it around, make sure that we have a good signal on my computer, make sure that everything looks good. And then we’re able to actually measure at 19 different areas of the brain to see those electrical rhythms.

So we’re able to evaluate the five major brain waves, which are Delta, Theta, Alpha, Beta and Gamma, which some listeners may have heard about, some may not. Yeah, some of them are more familiar than others. Yeah. Yeah, people talk a lot more about the neurotransmitters, right? Everyone knows about serotonin and dopamine, but these brain waves are equally as important. So basically, going down the different lists of brain waves, you have Delta waves that are mainly seen in really deep restorative sleep. When someone’s completely unconscious, your brain is producing a lot of Delta.

Theta is a little bit faster. It’s a little slow brain wave. That’s seen mainly when people are in deep states of relaxation, almost like a trance, like think deep meditation, hypnosis. It’s kind of that, almost that subconscious space where you’re just kind of in a, it’s kind of also a trance state.

Yeah, it’s also kind of a drowsy state, an inattentive state. So oftentimes people with ADHD will have an overproduction of Theta brain waves, which prevents them from being able to properly focus. And then we have in the middle, going from the slowest to fastest in the middle, are Alpha brain waves. So Alpha waves are really involved in flow states. When I’m sure you have this experience, I feel like right now, I’m in a flow state.

I feel like we’re, you know, I’m just completely immersed in the conversation with you. I’m not thinking about what I’m going to say. I’m not thinking about what I’m going to have for dinner this evening.

I’m just completely in the present moment. So the brain is normally producing a lot of Beta brain waves. That’s kind of our normal alert, awake, kind of default state. And that’s kind of like that monkey mind state where we have all these thoughts going through our heads.

We’re thinking about all sorts of crazy things. So when we get into flow states, our brain basically slows down its electrical signaling, so we start producing more Alpha and even Theta waves. So those brain waves are all really important. Talked about Beta a little bit. Beta is one that’s oftentimes one of the most common findings that I’ll see in someone’s brain, brain map report, is an overproduction of those high, bad Beta brain waves.

And that’s indicative of things like OCD, anxiety, PTSD, overthinking, ruminations. All these times, like under, I was like, yeah. Yeah. Yeah. So that’s, you know, Beta, it has its functions, but oftentimes people have it to the extreme.

And that’s what’s causing a lot of problems. And then the last of the brain waves, the fastest is one called Gamma. And to me Gamma was one of the most interesting ones because they’ve done a series of studies at the University of Wisconsin. Dr. Richard Davidson, a researcher basically looked at how Tibetan monks looked at the brain wave patterns of monks to see how those changed as the result of long-term meditation. And they actually found that increased Gamma waves were a common signature that was frequently seen when people had been meditating for super long periods of time. So, meditation. Oh, wow.

When? The cameras are still recording. However, the eight have reconnected and changed all the settings. Oh, no. Did this just happen? Or we’ve been talking. No, I thought, I thought I heard like a fuck, like, like 30 seconds ago. I was like, I just tried to.

It’s zoom out. You’re in a flow state. I have a child.

So I’ve learned to just, unless it’s like an emergency scream, I like dull. Right. How old is your kid? 13. 13. Okay.

So I have 13 years of training of ignoring. Mom. And I’m like, my friend will be like, he’s calling you. I was like, oh, what happened? So it’s not emergency. He calls me all the time.

Trust me, he’ll come get me. I like these coasters. I love a less conversation. I was reading a book about all these narrow things. So like, I was never good at chemistry or physics or anything like that. But this book reminds me to, it’s telling the name.

It like breaks it down very, it’s very easy to read. I’m curious. Yeah. And it’s in it, like, it talks about mental health and newer transmitters and how like certain diseases like Alzheimer’s and, yeah. So I’ll like find myself reading it. And I listened to it. I was like, what a thought.

I’m like all interested in this bio stuff. Right. Right. I’m more of the psychology person.

Gotcha. I’m the opposite of you, but like, I just find it so interesting how it just all works together. Like you’re so like, I love data too. So I have data, I can like do my job better too.

Right. I honestly, yeah, I honestly think it’s a disservice that people like are not kind of forced to study both psychology and biology if they’re in like the mental health or neuroscience space, because like, how do you understand someone’s mental health without understanding how their brain works on a biological level? I mean, we see like one bio class, but we don’t go deep into neurotransmitters and all that stuff. Just like one class overall. And yeah, it’s not enough. Definitely not.

I would never go out. and talk. You’re talking about it.

I’ll be like, nope. So gamma waves are basically the fastest of our brainwaves. They’re a really fascinating brainwave to me because they’re frequently seen elevated in meditation, breath work, psychedelics, all of these modalities. They frequently really increase gamma waves.

And that’s both in research along with me actually going and putting these EEG caps on people while they’re doing breath work, meditation. So gamma waves. So gamma is the fastest of the brainwaves that I’m able to assess. And gamma waves are frequently associated with increased neuroplasticity where the brain is able to change and reorganize itself. So psychedelics, meditation, breath work, all these modalities have been shown to frequently increase gamma wave production and they kind of increase people’s awareness and expand consciousness. So really interesting series of studies was conducted by the University of Wisconsin professor Richard Davidson, who basically looked at the brainwave patterns in advance like Tibetan monks, people who had been meditating hours a day for years on end, basically looking at how are their brains different from Joe Blow, who does not meditate for hours a day like most of us. So one of the things that they kept seeing with these meditators was greatly increased power of their gamma brainwaves. So researchers kind of linked that to that increased present moment awareness, expanded consciousness that meditators frequently have. And that strength of their gamma waves is both dependent on how long someone’s meditated and then how the repetition. So it’s just like with anything and all these other types of brainwaves when you’re doing any sort of training where you’re repetitively reinforcing a brainwave, your brain gets better and better at creating it.

So with all these brainwaves that I just talked about, what’s really important for people to understand is that none of the brainwaves are good or bad per se. They all serve important functions. It’s kind of like if you’re to get lab work, you know, you want everything in the optimal range. If there’s labs that are too low, that causes problems. Also, if you’re too high in something that can also cause problems. So same deal with when we’re evaluating someone’s brainwaves, we want to see a nice healthy balance where people are in the optimal range of each brainwave.

But if someone has too little or too much of a brainwave, that’s when people start experiencing issues. That’s when you step in. That’s where I come in.

Let me help you. Yes, exactly. How can research research back near science tools be used to improve cognitive functioning?

Yeah. So I think we’re in a really exciting time where we have people like Andrew Huberman, who has really been able to take the cutting edge neuroscience and actually make it accessible to laypeople who are just interested in learning about it. Because previously, I think there’s so many researchers who are doing really cool things who I love geeking out and talking to, but they really are not able to commute. They’re such experts in their specific subject manner that they’ve been studying for 30 years. They know how to have these high level conversations with other researchers. They don’t know how to communicate that science in a way that actually makes sense to you or I. The Gen C’s are millennials. Right.

Right. So and that’s really where I see my role is really trying to help bridge that gap between where the research is and then how the application of that research to actually help people live better lives based on this neuroscience research. Because for the most part, I mean, had you ever heard about brain mapping or neurofeedback prior to us having this conversation? Only because I did the podcast and I do my research in mental health.

Because you’re in mental health. Yeah. But if I were to speak to a friend that has nothing to do with it, they have no idea. What? They have no idea.

They would just go back to their bio class from high school. Yeah. Like I think I learned about this, but I don’t really know. Right. Yeah. And what’s crazy is like people oftentimes like I’ll speak to client or prospective clients and they’ll be like, oh, you know, is this like some new experimental technology? And I’m like, no, this has actually been around for decades and decades. I did not invent any of this stuff. Like it’s simply that I’m taking these modalities and bringing them to the bio hacking wellness community with my company, but it’s nothing new. And that’s, it’s just, I guess, bad marketing on the part of these different neurofeedback and brain mapping companies. Because maybe there wasn’t any people to market for, you know, I feel like now people are just more interested. People are more open. Mental health, yeah.

Yeah. And like the bio hacking and all that stuff. And they see how damaging, you know, pharmaceuticals, you know, things like Adderall, antidepressants, they see the problems that are caused by taking these medications and people are really wanting a better alternative, a natural solution. And I think that’s, you know, oftentimes when people start seeing me to do neurofeedback, they’ve tried all these different things. They’ve gone through, yeah, they’ve gone through the Western medicine, you know, psychiatric kind of model and have just struck out with different medications.

And, you know, they’re just really looking to either get off of those medications or really just be able to get the benefits of your proposed benefits of the medications, such as better mood or better focus without having to like take something externally. So I completely agree. I think nowadays people just want a more holistic approach. Or like you said, not everything’s for everyone, right? So someone might take Adderall and it might be great and it worked for you. But then for others, it just had more consequences.

Right. So I mean, even though even when it works for someone, though, it’s still it’s not a there’s still side effects. Like there’s Tim Ferriss talks about there not being any biological free lunch when it comes to taking a drug.

Like no matter what drug it is, there’s always going to be a downstream effect, unintended effects. So with Adderall, you know, most people take it and I mean, I’ve taken Adderall and I feel great. I mean, I feel euphoric.

I feel like I’m high. But over time, you know, because Adderall is basically causing this dump of the neurotransmitters that you have in your brain. It’s causing your brain to dump out.

It’s all of the stored up dopamine and norepinephrine. Yeah. Super focused.

Yes, you’re super focused. But then what happens when you run it when that wears off? You crash because your brain has dumped out. You don’t have any neurotransmitter left to think to have motivation. So you’re artificially kind of, you know, increasing your ability to focus in the moment, but taking away, you’re taking away your long term ability to focus. And I think that’s that’s something we’re seeing, you know, is long term usage of different medications that starts wearing out brain receptor sites. So people can actually have worse symptoms from long term use of these medications than they even had prior to getting treated, which is really unfortunate because most people don’t, you know, aren’t aware. Yeah, they’re not. Or they’re just thinking of the now. Yeah.

This will fix my problem now. Exactly. 20, 40 years. Yeah. Yeah.

And it’s like, it goes from five to 50. Yeah. I mean, I get it. It’s like, you know, easier to like market liposuction. It’s going to take away people’s fat, you know, just from one surgery. Then working out, you know, people like convenience and ease.

I get it. But I think just like anything in life that’s really worth having, such as really good brain health, it does take work. I’m not, I’m not ever telling people that they’re going to just be able to throw on these electrodes a few times and just have great. Yeah, they’re not, you know, I’m a huge fan of, you know, alongside the training that we do with neurofeedback or neuro simulation. I’m also giving people the tools of like brain healthy nutrition, different lifestyle interventions, such as getting more and like sunlight, you know, helping set their circadian rhythm, increases productions of production of serotonin and dopamine. So helping people have an elevated, elevated mood and focus, along with just talking about general like sleep hygiene, you know, basic stuff that really is like the foundation.

Like we’re, we’ve talked all about this, all these cool neuro technologies. But really, if people are not getting good quality sleep, if they’re not eating a healthy diet, if they’re not spending time outside in nature, it’s going to be pretty difficult to have, you know, good brain health. And the training is only going to be able to do so much. You know, that can’t, you can’t, they say in the workout community, how you, you can’t out train a bad diet.

And I would, I would apply that same logic. You can’t out train in terms of the brain. You can’t out train when someone’s not getting good sleep.

They’re getting two hours of sleep at night and eating Cheetos. They’re not going to get the same results from neurofeedback as someone who’s really dialed in. I’m laughing because my trainer would be like, told you. I’d be like, so what exercise do I need to do to burn this? And they’re like, well, if you keep eating, how you’re eating, nothing’s going to happen. I’m like, okay. Yeah. I don’t need to be that skinny.

I don’t need to be that skinny. How can optimizing one’s neurophysiology impact their mindfulness or their spiritual awareness? Yeah. It’s a great question. I think that when people, when, when we have a more balanced neurophysiology, we just feel more connected, whether that’s to other people, to other, you know, to, to ourselves, just like in a spiritual sense, because there’s actually areas of the brain that govern our sense of spirituality. Like the temporal lobes that sit above and behind the ears. There’s actually a really interesting phenomena that occurs with a specific type of epilepsy called temporal lobe epilepsy, where that part, those parts of the brain just start firing in really disconnected ways.

And someone starts having these epileptic fits. They actually experience like hyper religiosity and have these like grand, like spiritual sort of experiences. So it sort of shows that like, they’re very much is a biological brain basis for spirituality. So I think when people have, you know, healthy brainwaves, they’re more, you know, they’re more able to experience that spiritual connection.

And then also like all these modalities such as breathwork and meditation that are frequently used in the spiritual community, you know, they are now, now all the neuroscience is coming in to support what people have been doing with meditation and yoga and mindfulness. You know, there’s real tangible benefits that can actually now be seen and researched, even though people obviously knew. Yeah, they knew without needing that, that research, but now the research coming in, you know, to back all that stuff. So I think really, I think I’m a big fan of, you know, doing things that are scientifically validated to almost to a fault at one point. You know, I was very scientifically minded growing up. And if there was not a research study telling me I should do something, I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t do it.

I wouldn’t even bother. And now I’m like a little more balanced. You’re like, now I’m a little, little bit.

Right. After taking mushrooms a few times, I like that, that part of my brain. It opened your mind.

So I’m opening up. Yeah. But, um, but yeah, I mean, I think, I think that these, I think you can’t really separate the spirituality with the science. And that’s really one of my goals is to kind of fuse those two worlds together because you can actually with, you know, brain mapping, you can measure what happens to, you know, with people during these spiritual transcend, uh, transcendental states. What kind of mindfulness practice do you use on a day to day? Or what would you recommend someone that’s looking to, um, you know, heightened those beta or gamma?

Uh, yeah. So with meditation, usually like alpha waves, like we’re theta waves, we’ll start to increase. So helping the mind like kind of slow down. Um, I really like this technique.

Um, it’s from probably butchering the pronunciation. It’s like carton, Korea, uh, form of yoga, but they basically study. They basically put people in, uh, brain scanners as they were doing the specific meditation and they were basically evaluating to see how their brain changed. So the meditation is one where you’re connecting, um, your fingers as you’re saying the words saw, ta, nah. Oh, I, I pictured it. It’s the pinky first saw, ta, nah, ma.

And you keep repeating that. So it’s basically like kind of developing that like kind of hand eye coordination, verbal connecting that all. And they’ve actually shown in fMRI scanners that it enhances blood flow to the prefrontal cortex, which is an area of the brain that’s super important for executive functioning, decision-making focus, um, just emotional regulation. And it also quiets down activity in an area of the brain called the amygdala, which is our fear center. It generates that very frightened, you know, fight or flight response. So there’s other meditation techniques that absolutely probably do the same thing.

I just like this specific one again with what we were just talking about, cause there’s the neuroscience research behind it. Okay. Um, of course. Yeah. Why would you try something that’s not backed up by science?

I mean, there’s probably things that haven’t yet been backed up that definitely work, but I mean, also another thing I can think of breath work that I really like is what’s called box breathing where you breathe in like for a count of four, you hold for a count of four and then breathe out for a count of six. And they keep going, right? You keep going. Eight, ten. With this one, it’s just like the four, four, six, two. I’m sure there’s, there’s tons of variations.

With the, the, the main importance though that I have read about in terms of you want your outbreath to be longer than your inbreath. And that really signals, that really activates the parasympathetic. I mean, at least for me, because it’s like, it’s all out. You know, it’s still like, right.

It’s like almost holding it. Right. Right. Yeah.

Yeah. So I think you can do a lot, you know, with breath work also in terms of like, like holotropic breathing or different like hyper oxygenation breathing, like the Wim Hof method, you know, where people are doing that kind of hyperventilation. I’m dizzying doing breath work.

Like, yes. Because it’s changing, it’s changing your blood oxygenation levels, which is not necessarily a bad thing. It was just listening to an interview. Gary Brecca, who’s like the leader of 10x health. He was talking all about, you know, the, actually it’s beneficial to have those symptoms, such as like the dizziness or tingling. Like that’s actually indicating that there’s these changes in our blood oxygen levels, which is sort of like, like we’re, we’re getting the training in the same way our muscles are going to be sore after lifting weights or while we’re lifting, they get tired. It’s like with breath work, that’s kind of like an effective working.

It’s working. You almost kind of panic a little bit, but yes, if you keep lying in the last, you get less dizzy. Yes. I get what you mean because it sort of resembles like a panic attack. I think for a lot of people, I used to have panic attacks like back in high school or back in college, I started having them and that type of breath work actually like reminds me very much of like the physical sensation of a panic attack. And I’ve heard that from other people too. Yeah.

So. And then it’s like you have control. So the first thing that crossed your mind is like, stop, like stop doing it. So you’re almost like fighting it. Like, if I keep doing this, I’m going to keep getting more dizzy.

And then if I stop, it’s like, you’re done. And same deal with like ice baths, right? Where it’s like, you jump in an ice bath.

I don’t know if you’ve ever. Not an ice bath. No cold plunges my maximum.

Well, cold plunges. And I’m still like, oh. But it’s like, I think it’s great where it’s like that you learn that mental discipline where it’s like your body’s screaming at you to get out. But, you know, you’re exercising. I can stay here forever.

I don’t feel my body. Right. Let’s do this. But it’s like that first 30 seconds, you know, when you get in, like your, your brain is screaming, get out, get out. Like we’re going to die. But it’s like being able to. Yeah. Oh my God.

Now. Well, can participating in mindfulness practices alter our brainwaves? I’m going to say yes. Absolutely. After all this conversation, I think I’m going to say yes. Definitely so.

Yeah. It can alter our brainwaves, our neurotransmitter levels, blood flow, an oxygenation to the brain. All of those things can get modified through, you know, I’m the most familiar with like breath work and meditation. But mindfulness meditation, you know, there’s a whole center at UCLA that’s devoted to studying mindfulness meditation. And, you know, they have a lot of neuroscientists that have shown all sorts of incredible benefits, you know, decreased levels of cortisol, our main stress hormone, you know, it enhances our immune system, different aspects of our brain performance. So there’s a ton of, I think at this point, a ton of like neuroscience backed validation. We’re all about research today.

How can an individual achieve optimal cognitive performance? Yeah. Is there such thing? Yeah.

I think, I think there is. I mean, I think the percent, I don’t know, like the percent where someone feels like, you know, they’re doing well. I think that percent can always be higher for almost everyone.

I think that there’s a whole fallacy surrounding like people who’ve watched limit lists or like, you know, seen those movies where they talk about, you know, we’re only using 10 percent of our brain. Oh, my God. That’s actually not, it’s not at all true. I’ve heard that so many times.

Yeah. The brain’s very metabolically active. All sorts of different areas are constantly in use. And even like when we sleep, people think that our brain just shuts off, but actually that’s our brain actually wakes up in a lot of ways.

Like it’s very metabolically active. So, you know, in terms of like, how do people reach, you know, peak cognitive performance, I would say like going back to just those foundations, you know, of getting really high quality sleep, getting adequate sun exposure, I think particularly in the morning is so, so important. I’m a big fan of grounding.

I think there’s starting to be some really good research on that. So like how I kind of combine all that and also with my exercise is just go into the beach, you know, everyone loves how they feel going to the beach, right? After a long day at the beach, it’s like you’re getting the sun, you’re getting the negative ions from the air, you’re getting the immersion in water. Water, they found there started to be studies that actually validate like the just being in or even looking at water can greatly reduce anxiety and depression.

So, you know, kind of combining all of those different, I’m a big fan of like stacking, you know, stacking together as many things. So with going to the beach, you’re getting all of those benefits. And if you’re, you know, go for a brisk walk, you’re also getting your exercise. So really just laying the foundations for solid brain health are so important before you start venturing off into, you know, new tropics or neurofeedback. I think that start with the basics, no matter, no matter who you are, I think also like nutrition, I’m a big, big believer in, you know, potentially the ketogenic diet. I don’t think everyone has to go that far necessarily, but having good, healthy fats, like eating healthy fats in your diet is so essential to optimal brain performance. Because our brain is actually composed mainly of fat.

It’s actually 60 to 70 percent fat and like the myelin sheets. Yeah. But no, seriously, like we were told for so long that fat is terrible for us, you know, the standard American diet.

There’s yes, exactly. Trans fat is like banned by the government. Like don’t eat trans fat. Even the government says it’s don’t eat it, even though they’ve approved all sorts of other stuff.

We shouldn’t be. It’s that bad that we should not be eating. But good, healthy fats such as avocados, olive oil, coconut oil, MCTs, medium chain triglycerides, all of these things, grass red butter, all these things are so, so good for our brains. And I really noticed for myself when I started transitioning into a diet where I was just adding more healthy fats, I was just pouring more olive oil on my veggies and adding butter to my rice. Like I noticed like my brain really did wake up. And I talked to a lot of clients who are that same way when they haven’t been eating those good high quality fats.

They really do feel a significant boost in their cognition. So I’m a big fan of those healthy fats and then also fasting. I think you sure you probably talked to Ben about both the fats and fasting when he came on.

Yes, we did. I do some fasting myself. Yeah, we’re just talking about I do the regular 16 hours, at least one day through Friday. I can’t say I do it on the weekends.

Yeah, you got to give yourself a little break. But it’s great for the brain, you know, giving your brain that break from constantly consuming food is actually neuroscientists have actually started to call Alzheimer’s type three diabetes because there’s such a strong correlation to elevated blood sugar levels and developing neurodegenerative conditions, such as Alzheimer’s. And even just, you know, in the short run, when people have elevated blood sugar or just glucose spikes that occur, you know, when we’re constantly eating and eating a lot of carbs and our blood sugars just going up and down, up and down. There’s actually a lot of problems that people can experience like on a mental health basis.

Increased anxiety, depression, mood swings can worsen, mainly just like energy levels where you just start forgetting words and you’re just, you know, not really cognitively sharp. I noticed the energy levels. Like when I started doing the fasting, it wasn’t for dieting. It was because I would eat and just like crash and then eat again.

Right. I was like, all right, I can’t wake up and just be hungry and then be down. And so that’s why I did it. That’s why I keep doing it.

Yeah. And I mean, I also started for a reason besides weight loss. I was a skinny guy growing up, so I didn’t need to lose weight. But I was really just looking to, you know, improve my cognitive performance. So when I got started with fasting, I think probably like freshman year of college, I started playing around with it and actually noticed that, you know, when I, instead of, you know, I just skipped breakfast and had a black coffee or maybe added some exogenous ketones like MCT oil, or I also was a big fan of like bulletproof coffee, you know, where you’re blending together your butter with the MCTs with coffee. Which kind of, yeah, it sort of super charges your, your ketone levels because coffee helps your brain kick up its ketone production. So ketones are basically where your brain is burning fat for fuel instead of carbohydrate or instead of sugar. And ketones are actually a much more fuel efficient source of energy for the brain.

So when you’re either fasting or you’re eating lots of healthy fats, your brain’s able to burn more ketones for energy rather than carbs. So those benefits, yeah, are a lot due to that. Are there any supplements that you suggest people take maybe on a daily basis for the brain?

Yes, definitely so. I think, I think one of the best research backed ones would be fish oil, like Omega Threes, EPA, DHA, they have great effects just on like the cell membranes maintaining proper neural communication. And then just looking at anxiety, depression, all sorts of different mental health conditions. They found fish oil, not necessarily that you can just take fish oil and be cured, but fish oil is something that can help no matter where someone’s at, you know, in doing different stuff. Fish oil is just a great, you know, research backed supplement to start with. I’d also say magnesium is a super important one, especially for people that are stressed out entrepreneurs and executives that I often work with who are just burning the candle at both ends, because magnesium, you know, is a mineral that really helps combat stress. But the thing is stress also depletes magnesium. So when we’re highly stressed, we have lower levels of magnesium, which when we have lower levels of magnesium, we’re actually less able to combat the stress. So it’s this vicious cycle where people burn through their magnesium stores and get more and more anxious and stressed out. So oftentimes I’ll recommend to people, you know, taking dosages of magnesium that can frequently be a lot higher than just, you know, the two capsules that it says to take on the bottom.

Because you’re constantly burning it. Yeah. Especially if you’re in a, what is it, high stress? Like a high stress. Yeah, exactly.

Exactly. And like due to the mineral depletion, take your magnesium and not oxide. Magnesium oxide is just like it’s going to get, you know, good for like constipation, just passes through your system. But in order to actually get absorbed by the brain, you want like magnesium glycinate, torenate, citrate is also all right.

Three and eight is another really good one. So those are all very well absorbed by the brain and can actually increase levels of GABA, that main inhibitory neurotransmitter. It’s the same neurotransmitter that alcohol works on. So you can really help quiet down that excessive mental chatter and anxiety by taking you know, a good high quality, you know, sometimes high dosage of magnesium. Fisher, fish oil, magnesium.

What else would I include in there? There’s so many. I know. It’s such a big question. It’s such a big question. I think those two would be the main ones.

Those are, those are a couple of good ones. I’d also say creatine. Creatines are really interesting one that people usually associate creatine with body building. But creatine can actually also improve our mental endurance in addition to like our physical endurance.

So they’ve actually shown different tests with people’s memory or their ability to like focus with different cognitive tasks. Creatine can actually extend that ability to focus or remember things. So creatine has some really cool brain benefits, especially if you’re not eating a lot of like red meat. You’ll like vegetarians likely would benefit the most from creatine supplementation since creatine is already, you know, found in pretty high concentrations in red meat.

So if you eat a lot of red meat, would you recommend not taking it or it doesn’t hurt? I still, I still do. I still do.

I just take like a low kind of standard dosage every day. But yeah, it’s just great. There’s so many.

Yeah, there’s different. Those three are just great recommendations. I think fish oil, we all hear about it.

But then the other two, good to know. Yes. Oh, and last one I’ll add vitamin D. Vitamin D, you’ve got like vitamin D is so much more than just a vitamin. You know, it’s a hormone. It acts like a hormone. So vitamin D is important for all sorts of different things in the body, but particularly for brain function, vitamin D is a building block for cholesterol. And cholesterol is what creates all of our steroid hormones. So DHEA, testosterone for women, you know, estradiol, estrogen. So all of these, you can’t form without proper vitamin D. And a lot of us aren’t getting sufficient sunlight.

Luckily we’re blessed to live in South Florida where we can, even though most of us are working long hours inside and still not getting that. But yeah, so for people who aren’t spending, who aren’t working outside all day every day in the sun, I would frequently recommend, you know, taking vitamin D supplement, 5,000 IU’s is a good starting point per day. But that’s going to give your brain the ability to make these really important neurotransmitters that enable you to focus, to have a positive mood, to combat stress. So it’s really giving your brain that building block.

So all of these other things work better. Better start taking all my vitamins. That’s great. That’s four pills plus this plus that.

Oh gosh, you should see my cabinet. Really? Oh, it’s crazy. I can imagine. It’s a little excessive.

Not everyone used to go there. Well, I love this conversation. We can sit here and talk about vitamins in your whole cabinet, I’m sure. But I love bringing this type of content to the people because like I said, I feel like mental health is not just talking therapy or psychotherapy. You know, a lot of people don’t talk about the same way they don’t talk about mental health. And now it’s more talked about, but it’s usually your medical rate and then mental health. And then now it’s like the brain health. Like nobody’s like, well, how’s your brain? Right?

It’s not really talked about. Exactly. So I love, you know, we talked about it. Yeah.

Brain health. Thank you. Exactly.

Yeah. Thank you so much for having me on. I just like leave people with the message that no matter where they’re at currently, you know, your brain is capable of changing because of neuroplasticity. Your brain is constantly changing, evolving, growing new neural pathways, new connections among cells. So no matter where someone’s at, you know, that they’re highly anxious or depressed, there’s always a way to improve whatever symptoms you may experience. And because of, you know, the cutting edge of neuroscience that’s now available, I think that we’re starting to see that so many mental health issues, really almost all mental health issues have a very strong biological basis. There’s a great book I’d recommend that all the listeners check out who are interested in mental health and, you know, kind of the biological basis of mental health called brain energy. It was written by a Harvard psychiatrist that came out earlier this year. And it basically ties all sorts of different mental health conditions into metabolic issues within the brain.

So if your mitochondria, the parts of our cells that generate energy, if those mitochondria aren’t generating proper production of ATP, of cellular energy, you know, there’s that, that is like the biological basis of all of these different mental health conditions. So there’s a correlation. Yes.

Yes. You got my interest. Well, thank you again.

Thank you so much. Maybe you’re gonna have to bring you back. Talking. I would love to anytime.

Experience Mental Health without the Stigma

Michelle Chaffardet hosts Mindfull—the podcast and channel creating a safe space for viewers exploring topics like addiction, recovery, mental illness, and resilience. Building relationships with local providers and diverse experts, Michelle brings her warmth, training, and curiosity as a therapist to every educational, engaging guest episode.

More and more, Americans seek answers to mental health trouble and treatment puzzles. Last year, billions of searches sought symptoms, local recovery, and wellness practices. People are ready to dig deep and find support. Through Mindfull, Michelle supports these seekers looking for help with real worries about themselves, their loved ones, and their community.

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