Extinguishing Fear When It Really Matters by Altering Breath and Vision


Dr. Andrew Huberman, professor of neuroscience at Stanford, and Brian Mackenzie, renowned coach and innovator in health and fitness, have teamed up to stack their distinct professional insights. Find out how research with visually evoked fear in lab mice can be applied to optimize human performance and willful state change.

Their work implements a unique combination of breathing protocols and selective visual stimuli, in an instrumental methodology for adjusting one’s state— specifically the fear state. Put this knowledge to use every day in stress management, high performance athletics, and even in actually dangerous circumstances. We discuss how to consciously choose a parasympathetic response over a sympathetic flight or freeze response when faced with real challenge.

Brian and Andrew have created a valuable tool for the public. Their upcoming tech application, State, approaches high performance training, recovery, and navigating stress, using reliable objective metrics with techniques and practices grounded in neuroscience and physiology.

In This Episode We Discussed:

  • The neuroscience of mice and men
  • The neural basis of visually evoked fear
  • Protocols for evaluating fear
  • A movement from science to applied science to tech
  • The link between CrossFit training and state induction
  • The secret advantage of panoramic gaze
  • Combing the two power tools of vision and breathing
  • Correlations between psychological and physiological states
  • Shake it off; neurogenic release
  • CO2 tolerance and efficient use of Oxygen
  • Confidence and state control
  • Elevation of baseline
  • Timed exhale test and measuring baseline
  • Three breathing exercises to try
  • Stepping through time references with the visual system

Show notes:

0:00 Intro

3:46 An exciting discovery: repairing visual pathways using virtual reality.

5:07 Moving away from the subjective description of fear, towards actual physiology.

6:32 Various breathing tools with quantifiable variables for clear results.

7:40 Can we consciously change vision and breathing to effect sympathetic/parasympathetic nervous system dynamics?

9:11 Connecting the dots: breathing patterns, strength training, and healing.

9:51 Choosing parasympathetic engagement to buffer the sympathetic response.

12:45 Vision and breathing show up as a central focus of ancient wellness traditions.

16:14 Counterintuitively, panoramic visual processing is much faster than focus.

19:40 System override; Bidirectional causation between psychology and physiology.

21:00 Naturally embodied defensive postures, responses to threats.

22:29 State: The app that actually measures your progress in buffering stress.

23:27 In between stimulus and response lies choice.

25:57 Breath immediately effects both bottom up and top down systems.

27:39 Development of CO2 tolerance and efficient utilization of Oxygen.

30:48 Customized protocols for buffering stress, enhancing energy, and recovery.

39:05 Adaptive capacity across domains and circumstances.

43:40 Hypoxia training, slowed breathing.

46:22 CO2 tolerance goes down under emotional duress.

47:33 HRV, breath work, and parasympathetic response.

49:16 Actionable first steps for breath work and vision practice.

58:17 Anchoring ourselves in space and time with sleep.

59:22 Making a case for these practices as a life extension technology.

Mentioned in This Episode:

CO2 tolerance

Box Breathing 


Timed exhale test 



About Dr. Andrew Huberman PhD

Dr. Andrew Huberman Ph.D.  is a neuroscientist and Professor in the Department of Neurobiology at the Stanford University School of Medicine and runs Huberman Labs. He has made numerous important contributions to the fields of brain development, brain plasticity, and neural regeneration and repair.

About Brian Mackenzie

Human performance expert, educator, author and public speaker.

Brian is an elite athletic performance coach with more than two decades experience of innovating new protocols for training Olympians, Professional Athletes, Entrepreneurs and High Performers in numerous realms on the use of mechanical and breathing tools to achieve maximum output in training, competition and recovery. He is the author of the New York Times Best Seller, Unbreakable Runner, and Founder of The Art of Breath, a division of Power, Speed Endurance. His clients include: Ari Emanual, Kelly Starrett, Tim Ferriss, US Military Units (Navy, Army, Marines), Tia Clair Toomey and many others.