Skip to content

The Craving Mind – with Judson Brewer

Judson Brewer

What do the neurocorrelates of enlightenment, the activation of the posterior cingulate cortex, and the extinction of craving all have in common? They relate to the work of Judson Brewer. Jud talks with Michael W. Taft about his brain biofeedback machine, the neurophenomonolgy of effort vs. non-effort, the feedback loop of reward-based learning, working with the black hole of anxiety, self-referential thinking as a kind of addiction, and much more.

Judson Brewer is an MD-PhD and a thought leader in the field of habit change and the “science of self-mastery”, having combined nearly 20 years of experience with mindfulness training with his scientific research.

A psychiatrist and internationally known expert in mindfulness training for addictions, Brewer has developed and tested novel mindfulness programs for habit change, including both in-person and app-based treatments. He has also studied the underlying neural mechanisms of mindfulness using standard and real-time fMRI. His work has been funded by the National Institutes of Health, American Heart Association, Fetzer Trust among others.

Check out Jud’s recent book, entitled, The Craving Mind.

In this TED talk, Jud describes how to “get out of your own way.”

Show Notes

3:37 – Has Jud found the neurocorrelates of enlightenment?
4:40 – The Default Mode Network and science, the PCC – Craving and tanha – Details of fMRI experiments
5:57 – Trying, Flow and PCC activity, contraction vs. expansion
9:36 – Jud’s own practice in the scanner, metta, calibrating the scale of exp/con
20:45 – High concentration vs. effortlessness – no force necessary – 7 factors of awakening
28:54 – What has Jud found? Excitement vs. happiness – a learning tool
30:30 – What we see with experienced meditators / Best use of his neurofeedback technology
36:09 – Michael’s experience in the device
38:30 – Neurophenomolgy effort vs. non-effort, and the feedback loop of reward-based learning – the perpetual Skinner box of relative rewards – anger vs. kindness
42:30 – Addiction – allcohol, cocaine, smoking – smoking tastes bad when you pay attention
45:50 – Paying attention to eating – Joie de vivre – PCC and digital therapeutics – apps
53:24 – The trickiness of the black hole of anxiety – Unwinding Anxiety app
56:20 – Do we have to practice abstinence or not? – Is addiction a disease?
1:00:27 – Jud’s new book, The Craving Mind
1:01:37 – Self-referential thinking as a kind of addiction – Instagram addiction
1:04:05 – Meditation from the Lab – Dependant Origination (PDF Download)Siddhis

You can support the creation of future episodes of this podcast by contributing through Patreon.

7 thoughts on “The Craving Mind – with Judson Brewer”

  1. Definitely an interesting episode, not too technical for the layperson which is nice. Good chemistry between you and Brewer.

    A few thoughts:

    1. The distinction between self-reference and self-interference seems to be somewhat established, but also then blurred, in this conversation. Judson indicates in places that simply being self-referential in your thinking and emotions can cause suffering. But is this suffering intrinsic to self-reference, or isn’t it rather the effect of a specific type of self-reference, namely self-interference? Those two concepts look importantly different to me, because there are healthy and intelligent ways to refer back to yourself without suffering. For example, I can look in the mirror and recognize that’s it is me there, without then judging myself and feeling bad.

    2. I know this episode is about Judson and not Shinzen, but I do wish there was more said about any possible influence or overlap between these thinkers. I mean, the concepts of expansion and contraction are pretty strongly associated with Shinzen, so does this mean that Brewer more or less agrees with Shinzen’s system? One wants to know. I also think it is interesting that the reward-based learning that Brewer describes, ends up matching quite well with the “taste of purification” phenomenon that Shinzen has described. This would mean, I would think, that the taste of purification is the intuitive sense that your brain is relearning and re-wiring in real-time, through subtle rewards that occur in real time. I would like to know how equanimity and sensory clarify can work into the picture of the way the mind and brain actually work to overcome craving.

    1. Thanks, Sebastian. Jud and Shinzen have definitely talked quite a bit, but their ideas do not line up in several areas. Rather than trying to write it out here, second hand, I’ll see if I can some day get them to have a public dialog about it.

  2. Is there any sources I could check out for the researcher/study that’s been mentioned over and over again throughout this episode named something like chiksahanzen or something?? Thanks. sadi –

  3. Excellent episode, just like the latest one with Jud. Really enjoy your connection with neuroscience, great work! Is there any chance you could post the research mentioned (done by Jud and also the others he mentioned which were done historically, like “everything is behavioural”…) or maybe cite the respective sources? Enjoy digging into the studies themselves so this would be great to do without searching the web for hours (of course don’t want you to do this so only if you have the research at hand anyway or if the interviewee could provide this easily).

    Many thanks and best regards,

Let us know what you think