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Hacker turned neuroscientist, Moran Cerf is conducting some of the world’s most cutting edge research on what happens inside our brains. He’s set up the first and only lab in the world where neurological activity is mapped by attaching electrodes deep inside the brains of patients awaiting surgery. His studies have shed light on how we make decisions and what steps others can take to influence those decisions – including dream manipulation.
Dr. Cerf is a professor of neuroscience and business at the Kellogg School of Management and the neuroscience program at Northwestern university. He is a frequent speaker at prominent neurological science conferences as well as marketing summits and general interest events including TED, PopTech, Google Zeitgeist, and the Davos World Economic Forum.
Prior to his scientific career, Dr. Cerf was a hacker, stealing $7,000 to $10,000 per week from financial institutions. He would then turn the money over to the organization and offer to strengthen their security for a reasonable fee.
While attending a conference he heard a speaker compare neuroscience to hacking the brain. This was enough to inspire Dr. Cerf to move from Israel to Caltech, where he pursued a PhD in neuroscience.
In addition to being widely published and awarded for his advances in neuroscience, he is a core part of LA and New York’s vibrant storytelling scene, from NPR’s ‘Unfictional’ to the Moth – a fascinating organization that hosts compelling storytelling sessions across the US, where Moran is a 12-time Story Slam winner and a two-time Grand Slam champion.
Moran Cerf is a professor of neuroscience and business at the Kellogg School of Management and the neuroscience program at Northwestern university. Additionally, he holds a position at the department of neurosurgery, where he studies patients undergoing brain-surgery to examine behavior, emotion and decision making. This is done by directly recording the activity of individual nerve cells using electrodes implanted in the patient’s brain for clinical purposes. Dr. Cerf is a visiting faculty at the MIT Media Lab, and also a member of the Institute on Complex Systems.
Dr. Cerf holds a Ph.D in neuroscience from Caltech, as well as an MA in Philosophy and a B.Sc in Physics from Tel-Aviv University.
His research uses methods from neuroscience to understand the underlying mechanisms of our psychology. He has published works that address questions such as: “How are conscious percepts formed in our brain?”, “How can we control our emotions?” and “Which brain mechanisms determine if we find content interesting and engaging?”. Recently, his focus has been on the neural mechanisms that underlie decision-making, thereby offering a new perspective on predicting future choices and investigating how much free will we have in our decisions.
He holds multiple patents and his works have been published in wide-circulation academic journals such as Nature and Science, as well as popular science journals such as Scientific American Mind, Wired, New Scientists and more. Additionally, his work has been portrayed in numerous media outlets such as Time, CNN, BBC, Bloomberg, NPR, MSNBC, and dozens of others.
He has been featured in venues such as the Venice Art Biennial and China’s Art, Science and Technology association, and has contributed to magazines such as Forbes, The Atlantic, Inc., and others. Dr. Cerf has made much of his research accessible to the general public via his public talks at TED, PopTech, Google Zeitgeist, the Davos World Economic Forum, DLD and more.
He received several awards and NIH grants for his work, including the Instructional improvement grant,the Templeton Foundation grant, and the prestigious president scholarship for excellent Ph.D.
Prior to his academic career, Dr. Cerf spent nearly a decade in industry, holding managerial and engineering positions in computers security (as a hacker at Check Point and Imperva), pharmaceutical (CTO, Pharmaco-Kinesis), telecom (product architect, TTI Telecom), Fashion (architect, Vivvva), software development (programmer and team leader, Log-On Software), and innovations development (inventor, S.I.T).
Additionally, Dr. Cerf is the Alfred P. Sloan professor at the American Film Institute (AFI), where he teaches an annual screenwriting class on science in films. And he has been a consultant on Hollywood films and TV shows.
He is left handed.
Neuroscientist Moran Cerf discusses his non-traditional yet highly precise style of studying peoples' brains by "hacking" into their thoughts, and how his technique is taking us closer to an Inception-like reality in which peoples' dreams can be manipulated. Using a combination of MRI scanners, computers, and electrodes directly set on the brains of patients awaiting surgery, Moran has found that our brains are several seconds ahead of our consciousness, and overall much more malleable than previously thought.
On a practical level, he shows how intervening with people while they sleep has helped them kick smoking or overcome Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome, but this may be only the beginning of a long list of possibilities. "What if we can help you focus your dreams on something specific?" he ponders, reflecting on universally known creations such as the periodic table and Hitchcock's movies - accomplishments which were literally born in dreams before their dreamers transferred the images into the real world.
How much free will do we have in our decisions? Can we control our emotions? What physically happens in our minds in the moments before we make decisions? Can outside parties manipulate those physical processes and ultimately sway our choices?
Moran Cerf takes up these challenges everyday using the world’s most advanced brain monitoring methodology. A 12-time Storytelling Slam Champion, he is a master at sharing his findings with not only his scientific colleagues, but general and corporate audiences as well. Dr. Cerf’s presentations are particularly relevant for those in the marketing industry and anyone looking for the neurological secrets behind boosting performance and productivity.
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