Andrew Huberman’s Mechanisms of Control

by 24USATVMarch 25, 2024, 10 p.m. 21
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For the past three years, one of the biggest podcasters on the planet has told a story to millions of listeners across half a dozen shows: There was a little boy, and the boy’s family was happy, until one day, the boy’s family fell apart. The boy was sent away. He foundered, he found therapy, he found science, he found exercise. And he became strong.

Today, Andrew Huberman is a stiff, jacked 48-year-old associate professor of neurology and ophthalmology at the Stanford University School of Medicine. He is given to delivering three-hour lectures on subjects such as “the health of our dopaminergic neurons.” His podcast is revelatory largely because it does not condescend, which has not been the way of public-health information in our time. He does not give the impression of someone diluting science to universally applicable sound bites for the slobbering masses. “Dopamine is vomited out into the synapse or it’s released volumetrically, but then it has to bind someplace and trigger those G-protein-coupled receptors, and caffeine increases the number, the density of those G-protein-coupled receptors,” is how he explains the effect of coffee before exercise in a two-hour-and-16-minute deep dive that has, as of this writing, nearly 8.9 million views on YouTube.

Millions of people feel compelled to hear him draw distinctions between neuromodulators and classical neurotransmitters. Many of those people will then adopt an associated “protocol.” They will follow his elaborate morning routine. They will model the most basic functions of human life — sleeping, eating, seeing — on his sober advice. They will tell their friends to do the same. “He’s not like other bro podcasters,” they will say, and they will be correct; he is a tenured Stanford professor associated with a Stanford lab; he knows the difference between a neuromodulator and a neurotransmitter. He is just back from a sold-out tour in Australia, where he filled the Sydney Opera House. Stanford, at one point, hung signs (AUTHORIZED PERSONNEL ONLY) apparently to deter fans in search of the lab.

With this power comes the power to lift other scientists out of their narrow silos and turn them, too, into celebrities, but these scientists will not be Huberman, whose personal appeal is distinct. Here we have a broad-minded professor puppyishly enamored with the wonders of biological function, generous to interviewees (“I love to be wrong”), engaged in endearing attempts to sound like a normal person (“Now, we all have to eat, and it’s nice to eat foods that we enjoy. I certainly do that. I love food, in fact”).

This is a world in which the soft art of self-care is made concrete, in which Goop-adjacent platitudes find solidity in peer review. “People go, ‘Oh, that feels kind of like weenie stuff,’” Huberman tells Joe Rogan. “The data show that gratitude, and avoiding toxic people and focusing on good-quality social interactions … huge increases in serotonin.” “Hmmm,” Rogan says. There is a kindness to the way Huberman reminds his audience always of the possibilities of neuroplasticity: They can change. He has changed. As an adolescent, he says, he endured the difficult divorce of his parents, a Stanford professor who worked in the tech industry and a children’s-book author. The period after the separation was, he says, one of “pure neglect.” His father was gone, his mother “totally checked out.” He was forced, around age 14, to endure a month of “youth detention,” a situation that was “not a jail,” but harrowing in its own right.

“The thing that really saved me,” Huberman tells Peter Attia, “was this therapy thing … I was like, Oh, shit … I do have to choke back a little bit here. It’s a crazy thing to have somebody say, ‘Listen,’ like, to give you the confidence, like, ‘We’re gonna figure this out. We’re gonna figure this out.’ There’s something very powerful about that. It wasn’t like, you know, ‘Everything will be okay.’ It was like, We’re gonna figure this out.”

The wayward son would devote himself to therapy and also to science. He would turn Rancid all the way up and study all night long. He would be tenured at Stanford with his own lab, severing optic nerves in mice and noting what grew back.

Huberman has been in therapy, he says, since high school. He has, in fact, several therapists, and psychiatrist Paul Conti appears on his podcast frequently to discuss mental health. Therapy is “hard work … like going to the gym and doing an effective workout.” The brain is a machine that needs tending. Our cells will benefit from the careful management of stress. “I love mechanism,” says Huberman; our feelings are integral to the apparatus. There are Huberman Husbands (men who optimize), a phenomenon not to be confused with #DaddyHuberman (used by women on TikTok in the man’s thrall).

A prophet must constrain his self-revelation. He must give his story a shape that ultimately tends toward inner strength, weakness overcome. For Andrew Huberman to become your teacher and mine, as he very much was for a period this fall — a period in which I diligently absorbed sun upon waking, drank no more than once a week, practiced physiological sighs in traffic, and said to myself, out loud in my living room, “I also love mechanism”; a period during which I began to think seriously, for the first time in my life, about reducing stress, and during which both my husband and my young child saw tangible benefit from repeatedly immersing themselves in frigid water; a period in which I realized that I not only liked this podcast but liked other women who liked this podcast — he must be, in some way, better than the rest of us.

Huberman sells a dream of control down to the cellular level. But something has gone wrong. In the midst of immense fame, a chasm has opened between the podcaster preaching dopaminergic restraint and a man, with newfound wealth, with access to a world unseen by most professors. The problem with a man always working on himself is that he may also be working on you.

Some of Andrew’s earliest Instagram posts are of his lab. We see smiling undergraduates “slicing, staining, and prepping brains” and a wall of framed science publications in which Huberman-authored papers appear: Nature, Cell Reports, The Journal of Neuroscience. In 2019, under the handle @hubermanlab, Andrew began posting straightforward educational videos in which he talks directly into the camera about subjects such as the organizational logic of the brain stem. Sometimes he would talk over a simple anatomical sketch on lined paper; the impression was, as it is now, of a fast-talking teacher in conversation with an intelligent student. The videos amassed a fan base, and Andrew was, in 2020, invited on some of the biggest podcasts in the world. On Lex Fridman Podcast, he talked about experiments his lab was conducting by inducing fear in people. On The Rich Roll Podcast, the relationship between breathing and motivation. On The Joe Rogan Experience, experiments his lab was conducting on mice.

He was a fluid, engaging conversationalist, rich with insight and informed advice. In a year of death and disease, when many felt a sense of agency slipping away, Huberman had a gentle plan. The subtext was always the same: We may live in chaos, but there are mechanisms of control.

By then he had a partner, Sarah, which is not her real name. Sarah was someone who could talk to anyone about anything. She was dewy and strong and in her mid-40s, though she looked a decade younger, with two small kids from a previous relationship. She had old friends who adored her and no trouble making new ones. She came across as scattered in the way she jumped readily from topic to topic in conversation, losing the thread before returning to it, but she was in fact extremely organized. She was a woman who kept track of things. She was an entrepreneur who could organize a meeting, a skill she would need later for reasons she could not possibly have predicted. When I asked her a question in her home recently, she said the answer would be on an old phone; she stood up, left for only a moment, and returned with a box labeled OLD PHONES.

Sarah’s relationship with Andrew began in February 2018 in the Bay Area, where they both lived. He messaged her on Instagram and said he owned a home in Piedmont, a wealthy city separate from Oakland. That turned out not to be precisely true; he lived off Piedmont Avenue, which was in Oakland. He was courtly and a bit formal, as he would later be on the podcast. In July, in her garden, Sarah says she asked to clarify the depth of their relationship. They decided, she says, to be exclusive.

Both had devoted their lives to healthy living: exercise, good food, good information. They cared immoderately about what went into their bodies. Andrew could command a room and clearly took pleasure in doing so. He was busy and handsome, healthy and extremely ambitious. He gave the impression of working on himself; throughout their relationship, he would talk about “repair” and “healthy merging.” He was devoted to his bullmastiff, Costello, whom he worried over constantly: Was Costello comfortable? Sleeping properly? Andrew liked to dote on the dog, she says, and he liked to be doted on by Sarah. “I was never sitting around him,” she says. She cooked for him and felt glad when he relished what she had made. Sarah was willing to have unprotected sex because she believed they were monogamous.

On Thanksgiving in 2018, Sarah planned to introduce Andrew to her parents and close friends. She was cooking. Andrew texted repeatedly to say he would be late, then later. According to a friend, “he was just, ‘Oh yeah, I’ll be there. Oh, I’m going to be running hours late.’ And then of course, all of these things were planned around his arrival and he just kept going, ‘Oh, I’m going to be late.’ And then it’s the end of the night and he’s like, ‘Oh, I’m so sorry this and this happened.’”

Huberman disappearing was something of a pattern. Friends, girlfriends, and colleagues describe him as hard to reach. The list of reasons for not showing up included a book, time-stamping the podcast, Costello, wildfires, and a “meetings tunnel.” “He is flaky and doesn’t respond to things,” says his friend Brian MacKenzie, a health influencer who has collaborated with him on breathing protocols. “And if you can’t handle that, Andrew definitely is not somebody you want to be close to.” “He in some ways disappeared,” says David Spiegel, a Stanford psychiatrist who calls Andrew “prodigiously smart” and “intensely engaging.” “I mean, I recently got a really nice email from him. Which I was touched by. I really was.”

In 2018, before he was famous, Huberman invited a Colorado-based investigative journalist and anthropologist, Scott Carney, to his home in Oakland for a few days; the two would go camping and discuss their mutual interest in actionable science. It had been Huberman, a fan of Carney’s book What Doesn’t Kill Us, who initially reached out, and the two became friendly over phone and email. Huberman confirmed Carney’s list of camping gear: sleeping bag, bug spray, boots.

When Carney got there, the two did not go camping. Huberman simply disappeared for most of a day and a half while Carney stayed home with Costello. He puttered around Huberman’s place, buying a juice, walking through the neighborhood, waiting for him to return. “It was extremely weird,” says Carney. Huberman texted from elsewhere saying he was busy working on a grant. (A spokesperson for Huberman says he clearly communicated to Carney that he went to work.) Eventually, instead of camping, the two went on a few short hikes.

Even when physically present, Huberman can be hard to track. “I don’t have total fidelity to who Andrew is,” says his friend Patrick Dossett. “There’s always a little unknown there.” He describes Andrew as an “amazing thought partner” with “almost total recall,” such a memory that one feels the need to watch what one says; a stray comment could surface three years later. And yet, at other times, “you’re like, All right, I’m saying words and he’s nodding or he is responding, but I can tell something I said sent him down a path that he’s continuing to have internal dialogue about, and I need to wait for him to come back.”

Andrew Huberman declined to be interviewed for this story. Through a spokesman, Huberman says he did not become exclusive with Sarah until late 2021, that he was not doted on, that tasks between him and Sarah were shared “based on mutual agreement and proficiency,” that their Thanksgiving plans were tentative, and that he “maintains a very busy schedule and shows up to the vast majority of his commitments.”

In the fall of 2020, Huberman sold his home in Oakland and rented one in Topanga, a wooded canyon enclave contiguous with Los Angeles. When he came back to Stanford, he stayed with Sarah, and when he was in Topanga, Sarah was often with him.

When they fought, it was, she says, typically because Andrew would fixate on her past choices: the men she had been with before him, the two children she had had with another man. “I experienced his rage,” Sarah recalls, “as two to three days of yelling in a row. When he was in this state, he would go on until 11 or 12 at night and sometimes start again at two or three in the morning.”

The relationship struck Sarah’s friends as odd. At one point, Sarah said, “I just want to be with my kids and cook for my man.” “I was like, Who says that?” says a close friend. “I mean, I’ve known her for 30 years. She’s a powerful, decisive, strong woman. We grew up in this very feminist community. That’s not a thing either of us would ever say.”

Another friend found him stressful to be around. “I try to be open-minded,” she said of the relationship. “I don’t want to be the most negative, nonsupportive friend just because of my personal observations and disgust over somebody.” When they were together, he was buzzing, anxious. “He’s like, ‘Oh, my dog needs his blanket this way.’ And I’m like, ‘Your dog is just laying there and super-cozy. Why are you being weird about the blanket?’”

Sarah was not the only person who experienced the extent of Andrew’s anger. In 2019, Carney sent Huberman materials from his then-forthcoming book, The Wedge, in which Huberman appears. He asked Huberman to confirm the parts in which he was mentioned. For months, Huberman did not respond. Carney sent a follow-up email; if Huberman did not respond, he would assume everything was accurate. In 2020, after months of saying he was too busy to review the materials, Huberman called him and, Carney says, came at him in a rage. “I’ve never had a source I thought was friendly go bananas,” says Carney. Screaming, Huberman threatened to sue and accused Carney of “violating Navy OpSec.”

It had become, by then, one of the most perplexing relationships of Carney’s life. That year, Carney agreed to Huberman’s invitation to swim with sharks on an island off Mexico. First, Carney would have to spend a month of his summer getting certified in Denver. He did, at considerable expense. Huberman then canceled the trip a day before they were set to leave. “I think Andrew likes building up people’s expectations,” says Carney, “and then he actually enjoys the opportunity to pull the rug out from under you.”

In January 2021, Huberman launched his own podcast. Its reputation would be directly tied to his role as teacher and scientist. “I’d like to emphasize that this podcast,” he would say every episode, with his particular combination of formality and discursiveness, “is separate from my teaching and research roles at Stanford. It is, however, part of my desire and effort to bring zero-cost-to-consumer information about science and science-related tools to the general public.”

“I remember feeling quite lonely and making some efforts to repair that,” Huberman would say on an episode in 2024. “Loneliness,” his interviewee said, “is a need state.” In 2021, the country was in the later stages of a need state: bored, alone, powerless. Huberman offered not only hours of educative listening but a plan to structure your day. A plan for waking. For eating. For exercising. For sleep. At a time when life had shifted to screens, he brought people back to their corporeal selves. He advised a “physiological sigh” — two short breaths in and a long one out — to reduce stress. He pulled countless people from their laptops and put them in rhythm with the sun. “Thank you for all you do to better humanity,” read comments on YouTube. “You may have just saved my life man.” “If Andrew were science teacher for everyone in the world,” someone wrote, “no one would have missed even a single class.”

Asked by Time last year for his definition of fun, Huberman said, “I learn and I like to exercise.” Among his most famous episodes is one in which he declares moderate drinking decidedly unhealthy. As MacKenzie puts it, “I don’t think anybody or anything, including Prohibition, has ever made more people think about alcohol than Andrew Huberman.” While he claims repeatedly that he doesn’t want to “demonize alcohol,” he fails to mask his obvious disapproval of anyone who consumes alcohol in any quantity. He follows a time-restricted eating schedule. He discusses constraint even in joy, because a dopamine spike is invariably followed by a drop below baseline; he explains how even a small pleasure like a cup of coffee before every workout reduces the capacity to release dopamine. Huberman frequently refers to the importance of “social contact” and “peace, contentment, and delight,” always mentioned as a triad; these are ultimately leveraged for the one value consistently espoused: physiological health.

In August 2021, Sarah says she read Andrew’s journal and discovered a reference to cheating. She was, she says, “gutted.” “I hear you are saying you are angry and hurt,” he texted her the same day. “I will hear you as much as long as needed for us.”

Andrew and Sarah wanted children together. Optimizers sometimes prefer not to conceive naturally; one can exert more control when procreation involves a lab. Sarah began the first of several rounds of IVF. (A spokesperson for Huberman denies that he and Sarah had decided to have children together, clarifying that they “decided to create embryos by IVF.”)

In 2021, she tested positive for a high-risk form of HPV, one of the variants linked to cervical cancer. “I had never tested positive,” she says, “and had been tested regularly for ten years.” (A spokesperson for Huberman says he has never tested positive for HPV. According to the CDC, there is currently no approved test for HPV in men.) When she brought it up, she says, he told her you could contract HPV from many things.

“I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask about truth-telling and deception,” Andrew told evolutionary psychologist David Buss on a November 2021 episode of Huberman Lab called “How Humans Select & Keep Romantic Partners in Short & Long Term.” They were talking about regularities across cultures in mate preferences.

“Could you tell us,” Andrew asked, “about how men and women leverage deception versus truth-telling and communicating some of the things around mate choice selection?”

“Effective tactics for men,” said a gravel-voiced, 68-year-old Buss, “are often displaying cues to long-term interest … men tend to exaggerate the depths of their feelings for a woman.”

“Let’s talk about infidelity in committed relationships,” Andrew said, laughing. “I’m guessing it does happen.”

“Men who have affairs tend to have affairs with a larger number of affair partners,” said Buss. “And so which then by definition can’t be long-lasting. You can’t,” added Buss wryly, “have the long-term affairs with six different partners.”

“Yeah,” said Andrew, “unless he’s, um,” and here Andrew looked into the distance. “Juggling multiple, uh, phone accounts or something of that sort.”

“Right, right, right, and some men try to do that, but I think it could be very taxing,” said Buss.

By 2022, Andrew was legitimately famous. Typical headlines read “I tried a Stanford professor’s top productivity routine” and “Google CEO Uses ‘Nonsleep Deep Rest’ to Relax.” Reese Witherspoon told the world that she was sure to get ten minutes of sunlight in the morning and tagged Andrew. When he was not on his own podcast, Andrew was on someone else’s. He kept the place in Topanga, but he and Sarah began splitting rent in Berkeley. In June 2022, they fully combined lives; Sarah relocated her family to Malibu to be with him.

According to Sarah, Andrew’s rage intensified with cohabitation. He fixated on her decision to have children with another man. She says he told her that being with her was like “bobbing for apples in feces.” “The pattern of your

11 years, while rooted in subconscious drives,” he told her in December 2021, “creates a nearly impossible set of hurdles for us … You have to change.”

Sarah was, in fact, changing. She felt herself getting smaller, constantly appeasing. She apologized, again and again and again. “I have been selfish, childish, and confused,” she said. “As a result, I need your protection.” A spokesperson for Huberman denies Sarah’s accounts of their fights, denies that his rage intensified with cohabitation, denies that he fixated on Sarah’s decision to have children with another man, and denies that he said being with her was like bobbing for apples in feces. A spokesperson said, “Dr. Huberman is very much in control of his emotions.”

The first three rounds of IVF did not produce healthy embryos. In the spring of 2022, enraged again about her past, Andrew asked Sarah to explain in detail what he called her bad choices, most especially having her second child. She wrote it out and read it aloud to him. A spokesperson for Huberman denies this incident and says he does not regard her having a second child as a bad choice.

I think it’s important to recognize that we might have a model of who someone is,” says Dossett, “or a model of how someone should conduct themselves. And if they do something that is out of sync with that model, it’s like, well, that might not necessarily be on that person. Maybe it’s on us. Our model was just off.”

Huberman’s specialty lies in a narrow field: visual-system wiring. How comfortable one feels with the science propagated on Huberman Lab depends entirely on how much leeway one is willing to give a man who expounds for multiple hours a week on subjects well outside his area of expertise. His detractors note that Huberman extrapolates wildly from limited animal studies, posits certainty where there is ambiguity, and stumbles when he veers too far from his narrow realm of study, but even they will tend to admit that the podcast is an expansive, free (or, as he puts it, “zero-cost”) compendium of human knowledge. There are quack guests, but these are greatly outnumbered by profound, complex, patient, and often moving descriptions of biological process.

Huberman Lab is premised on the image of a working scientist. One imagines clean white counters, rodents in cages, postdocs peering into microscopes. “As scientists,” Huberman says frequently. He speaks often, too, of the importance of mentorship. He “loves” reading teacher evaluations. On the web, one can visit the lab and even donate. I have never met a Huberman listener who doubted the existence of such a place, and this appears to be by design. In a glowing 2023 profile in Stanford magazine, we learn “Everything he does is inspired by this love,” but do not learn that Huberman lives 350 miles and a six-hour drive from Stanford University, making it difficult to drop into the lab. Compounding the issue is the fact that the lab, according to knowledgeable sources, barely exists.

“Is a postdoc working on her own funding, alone, a ‘lab?’” asks a researcher at Stanford. There had been a lab — four rooms on the second floor of the Sherman Fairchild Science Building. Some of them smelled of mice. It was here that researchers anesthetized rodents, injected them with fluorescence, damaged their optic nerves, and watched for the newly bright nerves to grow back.

The lab, says the researcher, was already scaling down before COVID. It was emptying out, postdocs apparently unsupervised, a quarter-million-dollar laser-scanning microscope gathering dust. Once the researcher saw someone come in and reclaim a $3,500 rocker, a machine for mixing solutions.

Shortly before publication, a spokesperson for Stanford said, “Dr. Huberman’s lab at Stanford is operational and is in the process of moving from the Department of Neurobiology to the Department of Ophthalmology,” and a spokesperson for Huberman says the equipment in Dr. Huberman’s lab remained in use until the last postdoc moved to a faculty position.

On every episode of his “zero-cost” podcast, Huberman gives a lengthy endorsement of a powder formerly known as Athletic Greens and now as AG1. It is one thing to hear Athletic Greens promoted by Joe Rogan; it is perhaps another to hear someone who sells himself as a Stanford University scientist just back from the lab proclaim that this $79-a-month powder “covers all of your foundational nutritional needs.” In an industry not noted for its integrity, AG1 is, according to writer and professional debunker Derek Beres, “one of the most egregious players in the space.” Here we have a powder that contains, according to its own marketing, 75 active ingredients, far more than the typical supplement, which would seem a selling point but for the inconveniences of mass. As performance nutritionist Adam McDonald points out, the vast number of ingredients indicates that each ingredient, which may or may not promote good health in a certain dose, is likely included in minuscule amounts, though consumers are left to do the math themselves; the company keeps many of the numbers proprietary. “We can be almost guaranteed that literally every supplement or ingredient within this proprietary blend is underdosed,” explains McDonald; the numbers, he says, don’t appear to add up to anything research has shown to be meaningful in terms of human health outcomes. And indeed, “the problem with most of the probiotics is they’re typically not concentrated enough to actually colonize,” one learns from Dr. Layne Norton in a November 2022 episode of Huberman Lab. (AG1 argues that probiotics are effective and that the 75 ingredients are “included not only for their individual benefit, but for the synergy between them — how ingredients interact in complex ways, and how combinations can lead to additive effects.”) “That’s the good news about podcasts,” Huberman said when Wendy Zukerman of Science Vs pointed out that her podcast would never make recommendations based on such tenuous research. “People can choose which podcast they want to listen to.”

Whenever Sarah had suspicions about Andrew’s interactions with another woman, he had a particular way of talking about the woman in question. She says he said the women were stalkers, alcoholics, and compulsive liars. He told her that one woman tore out her hair with chunks of flesh attached to it. He told her a story about a woman who fabricated a story about a dead baby to “entrap” him. (A spokesperson for Huberman denies the account of the denigration of women and the dead-baby story and says the hair story was taken out of context.) Most of the time, Sarah believed him; the women probably were crazy. He was a celebrity. He had to be careful.

It was in August 2022 that Sarah noticed she and Andrew could not go out without being thronged by people. On a camping trip in Washington State that same month, Sarah brought syringes and a cooler with ice packs. Every day of the trip, he injected the drugs meant to stimulate fertility into her stomach. This was round four.

Later that month, Sarah says she grabbed Andrew’s phone when he had left it in the bathroom, checked his texts, and found conversations with someone we will call Eve. Some of them took place during the camping trip they had just taken.

“Your feelings matter,” he told Eve on a day when he had injected his girlfriend with hCG. “I’m actually very much a caretaker.” And later: “I’m back on grid tomorrow and would love to see you this weekend.”

Caught having an affair, Andrew was apologetic. “The landscape has been incredibly hard,” he said. “I let the stress get to me … I defaulted to self safety … I’ve also sat with the hardest of feelings.” “I hear your insights,” he said, “and honestly I appreciate them.”

Sarah noticed how courteous he was with Eve. “So many offers,” she pointed out, “to process and work through things.”

Eve is an ethereally beautiful actress, the kind of woman from whom it is hard to look away. Where Sarah exudes a winsome chaotic energy, Eve is intimidatingly collected. Eve saw Andrew on Raya in 2020 and messaged him on Instagram. They went for a swim in Venice, and he complimented her form. “You’re definitely,” he said, “on the faster side of the distribution.” She found him to be an extraordinary listener, and she liked the way he appeared to be interested in her internal life. He was busy all the time: with his book, and eventually the podcast; his dog; responsibilities at Stanford. “I’m willing to do the repair work on this,” he said when she called him out for standing her up, or, “This sucks, but doesn’t deter my desire and commitment to see you, and establish clear lines of communication and trust.” Despite his endless excuses for not showing up, he seemed, to Eve, to be serious about deepening their relationship, which lasted on and off for two years. Eve had the impression that he was not seeing anyone else: She was willing to have unprotected sex.

As their relationship intensified over the years, he talked often about the family he one day wanted. “Our children would be amazing,” he said. She asked for book recommendations and he suggested, jokingly, Huberman: Why We Made Babies. “I’m at the stage of life where I truly want to build a family,” he told her. “That’s a resounding theme for me.” “How to mesh lives,” he said in a voice memo. “A fundamental question.” One time she heard him say, on Joe Rogan, that he had a girlfriend. She texted him to ask about it, and he responded immediately. He had a stalker, he said, and so his team had decided to invent a partner for the listening public. (“I later learned,” Eve tells me with characteristic equanimity, “that this was not true.”)

In September 2022, Eve noticed that Sarah was looking at her Instagram stories; not commenting or liking, just looking. Impulsively, Eve messaged her. “Is there anything you’d rather ask me directly?” she said. They set up a call. “Fuck you Andrew,” she messaged him.

Sarah moved out in August 2023 but says she remained in a committed relationship with Huberman. (A spokesperson for Huberman says they were separated.) At Thanksgiving that year, she noticed he was “wiggly” every time a cell phone came out at the table — trying to avoid, she suspected, being photographed. She says she did not leave him until December. According to Sarah, the relationship ended, as it had started, with a lie. He had been at her place for a couple of days and left for his place

to prepare for a Zoom call; they planned to go Christmas shopping the next day. Sarah showed up at his house and found him on the couch with another woman. She could see them through the window. “If you’re going to be a cheater,” she advises me later, “do not live in a glass house.”

On January 11, a woman we’ll call Alex began liking all of Sarah’s Instagram posts, seven of them in a minute. Sarah messaged her: “I think you’re friends with my ex, Andrew Huberman. Are you one of the woman he cheated on me with?” Alex is an intense, direct, highly educated woman who lives in New York; she was sleeping with Andrew; and she had no idea there had been a girlfriend. “Fuck,” she said. “I think we should talk.” Over the following weeks, Sarah and Alex never stopped texting. “She helped me hold my boundary against him,” says Sarah, “keep him blocked. She said, ‘You need to let go of the idea of him.’” Instead of texting Andrew, Sarah texted Alex. Sometimes they just talked about their days and not about Andrew at all. Sarah still thought beautiful Eve, on the other hand, “might be crazy,” but they talked some more and brought her into the group chat. Soon there were others. There was Mary: a dreamy, charismatic Texan he had been seeing for years. Her friends called Andrew “bread crumbs,” given his tendency to disappear. There was a fifth woman in L.A., funny and fast-talking. Alex had been apprehensive; she felt foolish for believing Andrew’s lies and worried that the other women would seem foolish, therefore compounding her shame. Foolish women were not, however, what she found. Each of the five was assertive and successful and educated and sharp-witted; there had been a type, and they were diverse expressions of that type. “I can’t believe how crazy I thought you were,” Mary told Sarah. No one struck anyone else as a stalker. No one had made up a story about a dead baby or torn out hair with chunks in it. “I haven’t slept with anyone but him for six years,” Sarah told the group. “If it makes you feel any better,” Alex joked, “according to the CDC,” they had all slept with one another.

The women compared time-stamped screenshots of texts and assembled therein an extraordinary record of deception.

There was a day in Texas when, after Sarah left his hotel, Andrew slept with Mary and texted Eve. They found days in which he would text nearly identical pictures of himself to two of them at the same time. They realized that the day before he had moved in with Sarah in Berkeley, he had slept with Mary, and he had also been with her in December 2023, the weekend before Sarah caught him on the couch with a sixth woman.

They realized that on March 21, 2021, a day of admittedly impressive logistical jujitsu, while Sarah was in Berkeley, Andrew had flown Mary from Texas to L.A. to stay with him in Topanga. While Mary was there, visiting from thousands of miles away, he left her with Costello. He drove to a coffee shop, where he met Eve. They had a serious talk about their relationship. They thought they were in a good place. He wanted to make it work.

“Phone died,” he texted Mary, who was waiting back at the place in Topanga. And later, to Eve: “Thank you … For being so next, next, level gorgeous and sexy.”

“The scheduling alone!” Alex tells me. “I can barely schedule three Zooms in

a day.”

In the aggregate, Andrew’s therapeutic language took on a sinister edge. It was communicating a commitment that was not real, a profound interest in the internality of women that was then used to manipulate them.

“I remember him saying,” reads the first comment, “that he loves croissants.”

While Huberman has been criticized for having too few women guests on his podcast, he is solicitous and deferential toward those he interviews. In a January 2023 episode, Dr. Sara Gottfried argues that “patriarchal messaging” and white supremacy contribute to the deterioration of women’s health, and Andrew responds with a story about how his beloved trans mentor, Ben Barres, had experienced “intense suppression/oppression” at MIT before transitioning. “Psychology is influencing biology,” he says with concern. “And you’re saying these power dynamics … are impacting it.”

In private, he could sometimes seem less concerned about patriarchy. Multiple women recall him saying he preferred the kind of relationship in which the woman was monogamous but the man was not. “He told me,” says Mary, “that what he wanted was a woman who was submissive, who he could slap in the ass in public, and who would be crawling on the floor for him when he got home.” (A spokesperson for Huberman denies this.) The women continued to compare notes. He had his little ways of checking in: “Good morning beautiful.” There was a particular way he would respond to a sexy picture: “Mmmmm hi there.”

A spokesperson for Huberman insisted that he had not been monogamous with Sarah until late 2021, but a recorded conversation he had with Alex suggested that in May of that year he had led Sarah to believe otherwise. “Well, she was under the impression that we were exclusive at that time,” he said. “Women are not dumb like that, dude,” Alex responded. “She was under that impression? Then you were giving her that impression.” Andrew agreed: “That’s what I meant. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to put it on her.”

The kind of women to whom Andrew Huberman was attracted; the kind of women who were attracted to him — these were women who paid attention to what went into their bodies, women who made avoiding toxicity a central focus of their lives. They researched non-hormone-disrupting products, avoided sugar, ate organic. They were disgusted by the knowledge that they had had sex with someone who had an untold number of partners. All of them wondered how many others there were. When Sarah found Andrew with the other woman, there had been a black pickup truck in the driveway, and she had taken a picture. The women traced the plates, but they hit a dead end and never found her.

Tell us about the dark triad,” he had said to Buss in November on the trip in which he slept with Mary.

“The dark triad consists of three personality characteristics,” said Buss. “So narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy.” Such people “feign cooperation but then cheat on subsequent moves. They view other people as pawns to be manipulated for their own instrumental gains.” Those “who are high on dark-triad traits,” he said, “tend to be good at the art of seduction.” The vast majority of them were men.

Andrew told one of the women that he wasn’t a sex addict; he was a love addict. Addiction, Huberman says, “is a progressing narrowing of things that bring you joy.” In August 2021, the same month Sarah first learned of Andrew’s cheating, he released an episode with Anna Lembke, chief of the Stanford Addiction Medicine Dual Diagnosis Clinic. Lembke, the author of a book called Dopamine Nation, gave a clear explanation of the dopaminergic roots of addiction.

“What happens right after I do something that is really pleasurable,” she says, “and releases a lot of dopamine is, again, my brain is going to immediately compensate by downregulating my own dopamine receptors … And that’s that comedown, or the hangover or that aftereffect, that moment of wanting to do it more.” Someone who waits for the feeling to pass, she explained, will reregulate, go back to baseline. “If I keep indulging again and again and again,” she said, “ultimately I have so much on the pain side that I’ve essentially reset my brain to what we call anhedonic or lacking-in-joy type of state, which is a dopamine deficit state.” This is a state in which nothing is enjoyable: “Everything sort of pales in comparison to this one drug that I want to keep doing.”

“Just for the record,” Andrew said, smiling, “Dr. Lembke has … diagnosed me outside the clinic, in a playful way, of being work addicted. You’re probably right!”

Lembke laughed. “You just happen to be addicted,” she said gently, “to something that is really socially rewarded.”

What he failed to understand, he said, was people who ruined their lives with their disease. “I like to think I have the compassion,” he said, “but I don’t have that empathy for taking a really good situation and what from the outside looks to be throwing it in the trash.”

At least three ex-girlfriends remain friendly with Huberman. He “goes deep very quickly,” says Keegan Amit, who dated Andrew from 2010 to 2017 and continues to admire him. “He has incredible emotional capacity.” A high-school girlfriend says both she and he were “troubled” during their time together, that he was complicated and jealous but “a good person” whom she parted with on good terms. “He really wants to get involved emotionally but then can’t quite follow through,” says someone he dated on and off between 2006 and 2010. “But yeah. I don’t think it’s …” She hesitates. “I think he has such a good heart.”

Andrew grew up in Palo Alto just before the dawn of the internet, a lost city. He gives some version of his origin story on The Rich Roll Podcast; he repeats it for Tim Ferriss and Peter Attia. He tells Time magazine and Stanford magazine. “Take the list of all the things a parent shouldn’t do in a divorce,” he recently told Christian bowhunter Cameron Hanes. “They did them all.” “You had,” says Wendy Zukerman in her bright Aussie accent, “a wayward childhood.” “I think it’s very easy for people listening to folks with a bio like yours,” says Tim Ferriss, “to sort of assume a certain trajectory, right? To assume that it has always come easy.” His father and mother agree that “after our divorce was an incredibly hard time for Andrew,” though they “do not agree” with some of his characterization of his past; few parents want to be accused of “pure neglect.”

Huberman would not provide the name of the detention center in which he says he was held for a month in high school. In a version of the story Huberman tells on Peter Attia’s podcast, he says, “We lost a couple of kids, a couple of kids killed themselves while we were there.” (New York was unable to find an account of this event.)

Andrew attended Gunn, a high-performing, high-pressure high school. Classmates describe him as always with a skateboard; they remember him as pleasant, “sweet,” and not particularly academic. He would, says one former classmate, “drop in on the half-pipe,” where he was “encouraging” to other skaters. “I mean, he was a cool, individual kid,” says another classmate. “There was one year he, like, bleached his hair and everyone was like, ‘Oh, that guy’s cool.’” It was a wealthy place, the kind of setting where the word au pair comes up frequently, and Andrew did not stand out to his classmates as out of control or unpredictable. They do not recall him getting into street fights, as Andrew claims he did. He was, says Andrew’s father, “a little bit troubled, yes, but it was not something super-serious.”

What does seem certain is that in his adolescence, Andrew became a regular consumer of talk therapy. In therapy, one learns to tell stories about one’s experience. A story one could tell is: I overcame immense odds to be where I am. Another is: The son of a Stanford professor, born at Stanford Hospital, grows up to be a Stanford professor.

I have never,” says Amit, “met a man more interested in personal growth.” Andrew’s relationship to therapy remains intriguing. “We were at dinner once,” says Eve, “and he told me something personal, and I suggested he talk to his therapist. He laughed it off like that wasn’t ever going to happen, so I asked him if he lied to his therapist. He told me he did all the time.” (A spokesperson for Huberman denies this.)

“People high on psychopathy are good at deception,” says Buss. “I don’t know if they’re good at self-deception.” With repeated listening to the podcast, one discerns a man undergoing, in public, an effort to understand himself. There are hours of talking about addiction, trauma, dopamine, and fear. Narcissism comes up consistently. One can see attempts to understand and also places where those attempts swerve into self-indulgence. On a recent episode with the Stanford-trained psychiatrist Paul Conti, Andrew and Conti were describing the psychological phenomenon of “aggressive drive.” Andrew had an example to share: He once canceled an appointment with a Stanford colleague. There was no response. Eventually, he received a reply that said, in Andrew’s telling, “Well, it’s clear that you don’t want to pursue this collaboration.”

Andrew was, he said to Conti, “shocked.”

“I remember feeling like that was pretty aggressive,” Andrew told Conti. “It stands out to me as a pretty salient example of aggression.”

“So to me,” said Huberman, “that seems like an example of somebody who has a, well, strong aggressive drive … and when disappointed, you know, lashes back or is passive.”

“There’s some way in which the person doesn’t feel good enough no matter what this person has achieved. So then there is a sense of the need and the right to overcontrol.”

“And now we’re going to work together, right, so I’m exerting significant control over you, right? And it may be that he’s not aware of it.”

“In this case,” said Andrew, “it was a she.”

This woman, explained Conti, based entirely on Andrew’s description of two emails, had allowed her unhealthy “excess aggression” to be “eclipsing the generative drive.” She required that Andrew “bowed down before” her “in the service of the ego” because she did not feel good about herself.

This conversation extends for an extraordinary nine minutes, both men egging each other on, diagnosis after diagnosis, salient, perhaps, for reasons other than those the two identify. We learn that this person lacks gratitude, generative drive, and happiness; she suffers from envy, low “pleasure drive,” and general unhappiness. It would appear, at a distance, to be an elaborate fantasy of an insane woman built on a single behavior: At some point in time, a woman decided she did not want to work with a man who didn’t show up.

There is an argument to be made that it does not matter how a helpful podcaster conducts himself outside of the studio. A man unable to constrain his urges may still preach dopaminergic control to others. Morning sun remains salutary. The physiological sigh, employed by this writer many times in the writing of this essay, continues to effect calm. The large and growing distance between Andrew Huberman and the man he continues to be may not even matter to those who buy questionable products he has recommended and from which he will materially benefit, or listeners who imagined a man in a white coat at work in Palo Alto. The people who definitively find the space between fantasy and reality to be a problem are women who fell for a podcaster who professed deep, sustained concern for their personal growth, and who, in his skyrocketing influence, continued to project an image of earnest self-discovery. It is here, in the false belief of two minds in synchronicity and exploration, that deception leads to harm. They fear it will lead to more.

“There’s so much pain,” says Sarah, her voice breaking. “Feeling we had made mistakes. We hadn’t been enough. We hadn’t been communicating. By making these other women into the other, I hadn’t really given space for their hurt. And let it sink in with me that it was so similar to my own hurt.”

Three of the women on the group text met up in New York in February, and the group has only grown closer. On any given day, one of the five can go into an appointment and come back to 100 texts. Someone shared a Reddit thread in which a commenter claimed Huberman had a “stable full a hoes,” and another responded, “I hope he thinks of us more like Care Bears,” at which point they assigned themselves Care Bear names. “Him: You’re the only girl I let come to my apartment,” read a meme someone shared; under it was a yellow lab looking extremely skeptical. They regularly use Andrew’s usual response to explicit photos (“Mmmmm”) to comment on pictures of one another’s pets. They are holding space for other women who might join.

“This group has radicalized me,” Sarah tells me. “There has been so much processing.” They are planning a weekend together this summer.

“It could have been sad or bitter,” says Eve. “We didn’t jump in as besties, but real friendships have been built. It has been, in a strange and unlikely way, quite a beautiful experience.”

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