Episode 24: The Science Of Vision, Eye Health & Seeing Better| Huberman Lab

Key Takeaways

  • Vision involves eyesight but eyes are responsible for mood and level of alertness as well
  • To offset nearsightedness: get as much sunlight as you can during the day without sunglasses; avoid light exposure between 10 pm and 4 am, be sure to spend time throughout the day looking off in the distance at farther objects
  • Train vision just like you would train other muscles – near/far, smooth pursuit, test eye dominance
  • Hallucinations are an under activity of the visual system and compensatory to make guesses about what’s out in the world  
  • A healthy cardiovascular system delivers blood, oxygen, nutrients to the eyes and brain and supports vision over time

Introduction

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

In this episode of Huberman Lab, Dr. Huberman dives into the science of vision, how we see, how we convert information into electricity the brain can understand, and how to improve vision at any age. Dr. Huberman also provides actionable protocols to support different types of vision and details how to leverage vision to improve alertness.

Host: Andrew Huberman (@hubermanlab)

Eyes & Vision System

  • Vision starts with the eyes
  • Vision: ability to perceive objects, shapes, sizes, colors
  • Vision involves eyesight but eyes are responsible for mood and level of alertness as well
  • The job of the eyes is to collect light information and send it to the brain in a way the brain can understand
  • The brain uses 40-50% of real estate for vision
  • Photoreceptors (rods and cones) are responsible for vision: cones are involved in bright daytime vision, rods are involved in dusk or nighttime vision
  • Retinal ganglion cells (neurons that connect the retina to the brain) send electrical information to the rest of the brain for processing
  • You are not actually seeing objects directly – you are making a guess based on the pattern of electricity that arrives in your brain
  • Light information is transformed into electrical signals your visual system understands
  • Every animal sees the world differently depending on whether they have 1, 2, or 3 cones
  • What you experience in the outside world is limited by what wavelengths of light you see

Subconscious Aspects Of Vision: Mood, Sleep Appetite

  • Eyes communicate information about the time of day to the rest of the body
  • Low vision or no vision you likely still have retinal ganglion cells which signal time of day to the brain
  • Melanopsin ganglion cells found in retinal ganglion cells promote eye health and signal to the day how awake or asleep you should feel, dopamine levels, pain threshold, metabolism, mood, wakefulness, etc.
  • Melanopsin ganglion cells set the circadian clock and respond to blue and yellow light
  • “If you are not viewing sunlight for 2-10 minutes in the early part of the day when the sun is low in the sky and doing the same thing early in the evening, you are severely disrupting sleep rhythms, mood, hormones, metabolism, pain threshold, and many other factors including ability to learn and remember information.” – Dr. Andrew Huberman
  • The most central aspect of our biology is to anchor ourselves in time based on where the sun is
  • Protocol for improved alertness: get light in your eyes early in the day and anytime you want to be awake, get blue light exposure early in the day   
  • Getting two hours per day of sunlight without wearing sunglasses has been shown to have a significant effect on reducing myopia (near-sightedness)

Accommodation: How Our Eyes Adjust For Depth

  • The brain creates a sense of depth: objects closer look larger and faster objects further look smaller and slower
  • Accommodation: eyes dynamically adjust where light lands by moving the lens and changing the shape of the eye
  • Eyes and pupils are indicative of things happening deep in the brain
  • Mental and physical endeavors are grounded in visual focus
  • It’s relaxing to look at things farther away but more work to look at things nearer because the lens have to get thicker to accommodate
  • Healthy pupils will dilate when looking at far objects; pupils will shrink when looking at objects up close
  • If you are constantly looking at near objects and not allowing muscles to relax, you may be more prone to migraines and are training eyes to look at things close but not far
  • Protocol to improve farsightedness: every 90 minutes go to a window and look out at a distance – even better if you can open the window, stand on the balcony, go outside
  • Neurons in the brain make it easy or harder to keep eyelids open based on how awake or tired you are
  • System of alertness is linked to the position of eyes and can create a wakefulness signal – if you feel tired, look up toward the ceiling and raise your eyes for 10-15 seconds
    • Can also try positioning the computer screen at or above eye level
  • Children that sleep in rooms with nightlights are more likely to develop myopia (nearsightedness)
  • Viewing light between 10 pm-4 am distorts lens accommodation mechanisms in the eye and suppresses dopamine

Pattern Vision & Colorblindness

  • Monochromat: very rare but some people see the world in black and white
  • Most colorblind people are red/green colorblind. They lack the red cone photopigment so don’t have green-red contrast and will see red as more brown
  • To improve vision: spend at least 10 minutes each day viewing things off in the distance (at least ½ mile away)
  • Smooth pursuit: the ability of eyes to track moving objects smoothly through space
  • The brain follows eye movements – you can train smooth pursuit to keep muscles strong a few times per week even by watching kids play, watching sports like basketball or tennis

Solutions, Protocols, Supplements For Eye Health

  • Early studies show that flashing red light into the eyes early in the day and help offset some macular degeneration by enhancing mitochondria function
  • Lubricating mechanisms for the eye: blinking 5-15 seconds
  • The two eyes are competing for real estate in the brain
  • To improve binocular vision: occlude the healthy eye and force the work to go through the damaged or weaker eye
  • Foods rich in vitamin A (dark leafy vegetables and carrots) in raw form can help support vision
  • You need a threshold level of vitamin A to see well
  • Some evidence that lutein (from runny egg yolk) can offset severe macular degeneration
  • Nutrient found in the red-pink pigment of seafoods (such as shrimp) appear to increase ocular blood flow
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Notes By Maryann

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