Direct Recording from the Human Brain Using Electrodes Implanted During Brain-Surgery

Wednesdays@NICO Seminar, Noon, January 8, 2014, Chambers Hall 

Professor Moran Cerf, Kellogg School of Management


In this talk I'll discuss my neuroscience studies where we study the human brain by directly recording the activity of individual nerve cells using electrodes implanted in the brains of patients undergoing brain-surgery. During the surgery we eavesdrop on the discharge of those cells and use the patterns of activity to decode thoughts, emotions, memories, decisions and even dreams.

I'll describe the method used to access the brain and a variety of studies conducted by me and my team recently that enabled us unique access to the human brain. Among the works I'll describe:
- a project where we were able to project people's thoughts in front of their eyes.
- a project where we were able to decode a person's freely recalled memories.
- a project where we were able to monitor and intervene in a person's choice before it happened, and before her knowledge of the choice.
- time permits: a project where we were able to aid people in regulating their emotion using feedback on the activity of their feelings from within their brain.


Moran Cerf is an assistant professor at the Kellogg School of Management and the neuroscience program at Northwestern university. Additionally, he holds a position at the UCLA department of neurosurgery, where he works with patients undergoing brain-surgery to study behavior, emotion and decision making, by directly recording the activity of individual nerve cells using electrodes implanted in their brain.

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 brain science 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 journals such as Nature and Science, as well as Scientific American Mind and leading neuroscience journals.

Additionally, his work has been featured in numerous media and cultural outlets such as CNN, Wired, BBC, Bloomberg, NPR, Time, MSNBC, Slate.Com, Gizmodo, New Scientist, the Venice Art Biennial and dozens of others. Dr. Cerf has made much of his research accessible to the general public via his public talks at Ted-Ed, PopTech, Google Zeitgeist, the Davos World Economic Forum, DLD and more.

He received several awards and NIH grants for his research, including the Instructional improvement grant, and the prestigious president scholarship for excellent PhD, along with a number of private fundings.

Prior to his academic career, Dr. Cerf spent nearly a decade in industry, holding managerial and development positions in computers security (Check Point, Imperva), pharmaceutical (Pharmaco-Kinesis), telecom (TTI Telecom), Fashion (Vivvva), software development (Log-On), and inventions (S.I.T).

He is left handed.