Transcript for Dr. Moran Cerf – Neuroscience, Philosophy, Physics

what’s up folks this is a hugely

informative science packed episode with

dr. Mullen Cerf his specialty is in the

field of neuroscience and the work him

and his team are conducting is quite

literally at the razor’s edge of where

science is and how are we are connecting

technology to what the brain is capable

of this episode is full of a huge amount

of information we probably covered a

10-week course in the span of an hour or

so so definitely take your time listen

to it I have a feeling that dr. Milan’s

work will be gaining some huge momentum

soon and really changing the way we look

at the brain so I think you guys will

really enjoy this episode please get to

neuro – hacks comm to find more

information about what dr. Cerf and his

team are up to find us on Twitter at the

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this is an information packed episode

that I think you will really truly enjoy

thank you guys so much for listening


human experience is diving back into

hacking the brain and human performance

as we speak to our guest mr. Mohan Cerf

Moe on my good sir welcome to hxp

thank you so much Moe on you have such

an interesting history you grew up in

Israel in the 80s and you were recruited

into the Intelligence Unit of the

Israeli army when you’re 18 right yes ah

that’s that’s fascinating and you you

hold a PhD in neuroscience a master’s in

philosophy in a bachelors in physics

exactly yeah

so I mean how did how did this evolve

for you how did you go from being a

hacker to going into science and

neuroscience and studying philosophy and

and what you’re doing now so I was a kid

of the 80s and what’s common to a lot of

kids of the 80s is that we grew up with

computers when I was a young kid

computers had only a few options and you

just learned how to control and navigate

those few options and then as we get

more complex started computers so

suddenly there was one more component

and we learned how to toy with that and

it got to the point when I was a

teenager that we just understood

computers the same way the people who

designed them did as in we knew how to

toy with them and I think this meant

that we could change things and navigate

and manipulate things in the same way so

when I was a kid it was mostly adding

one more life to the game of King Congo

and increasing your scoring pong but it

translated in the same way to being able

to also change passwords and change the

content of some files remotely and when

internet started becoming a thing we

already had some knowledge on how it

could and should work so it evolved with

that so hacking wasn’t ever a big word

that seemed too complex to understand it

just seemed like what we do so this is

how I evolved the Israeli army

is maybe the kind of breeding place for

a lot of Technology in Israel so it’s

not surprising that age 18 every Israeli

kid goes to the army and the ones who

care about technology and computers end

up often being recruited to do either

intelligence where you find tons of

people exactly like you that cared about

the same things you did as a kid and now

you’re together and it amplifies your

skills and your interest and your

abilities right so after spending over

three years with people like you when

you leave it’s kind of intuitive that

you go and open a company that uses

those skills and tries to do the same

thing as a civilian and and the

narrative continues pretty easily and

letting self to having multiple startup

companies that are the kind of way that

Israel is growing its technology

infrastructure and also going to

academic holds that benefit from the

same thing yeah and I mean what would

okay so then what would be the parallels

of hacking a computer and your current

neuroscience research so there’s some

similarities that I like to draw between

hacking computers and looking at the

brain namely the idea of the black box

holding information that you have to

penetrate from the outside so hacking a

computer means you control some of the

inputs that go into it and you observe

the outputs and you try to use those in

and out to understand the middle

component the black box that’s inside

you can control what inputs you’ve sent

to our website you can see what happens

and you try to understand how the

website was built this is in many ways

how neuroscientists also look at the

brain you do something to the person you

see what they say and what they respond

to and try to understand how their brain

works it’s it’s remarkable that we are

doing something because the equivalent

of neuroscience in the brain would be

that you have maybe a thermostat

something with measured temperature that

you put next to the outside of a

computer then you try to use this

thermostat to learn what is a the

Internet or what is a you know what is a

computer code but somehow even though

our tools our thermostats

in the same way the thermos let’s look

at computers for the brain we still

somehow managed to learn something about

the brain

ok so let’s I mean let’s dig in what I

mean what are you guys learning about

the brain so I think the last decade or

even the last five years have shown us

so many things that challenge our

understanding of ourselves that what I

focus on right now mostly is looking at

the internals of our character and

personality and explaining what they are

and lend itself to looking at people’s

memories people’s emotions people’s

dreams and people’s decision making

process so those are the four things

that we wanna understand and ideally

what we wanna do is wanna see how the VA

decides what to do what memo is

manipulate on navigate or influenced

your choice what to do how emotions

translate to a choice that is not

necessarily entirely under your control

and ultimately can we predict what

you’re gonna do in the future before you

even know about it

and then can we change that between the

moment your brain knows and the moment

you know very interesting so I mean

we’re talking about are we talking about

predictive programming here are we

talking about kind of influencing choice

are we or we’re just we’re just

discovering the determining factors of

what how we which we choose things so

I’ll give you examples from both so one

example would be a as simple as we

suggested a choice that’s very very

trivial like what to have for lunch so

you’re about to go to a restaurant and

have lunch and the waiter

asks you if you want pasta or salad and

you dig into your brain and you made a

choice and you say say pasta and the

question is when did you make this

choice who knew what to choose what

parameters did you use to actually make

a decision and could I a no before you

said the word pasta that you’re gonna

say pasta how soon before you said it

could I have known and even more so

could I have gone into your brain and

change something that would make you say

salad then the answer to all of those is

that we can know before you know that

it’s sitting in your brain that we can

know sometimes seconds before you know

and even before you feel it

made the answer sometimes before even

asked to the question I can already

assign some abilities to what you’re

going to choose later and we can

actually if we know fine off what you’re

gonna choose we can change things and

make you choose otherwise and this ties

to a bigger picture which is some

choices that you make are really bad for


and after you made them you’re unhappy

so we can actually help you learn which

choices you’re happy with and which ones

you’re not well let me let me just

address what you said about making

choices and I mean so so is this a sort

of deterministic thing that you’re kind

of are you are you judging the

principles of free will or are you are

you simply analyzing neural pathways at

up to a point or brain waves to a point

where you’re able to predict what a

person is going to choose based on

certain things so the concept of a will

has been on the table for centuries

millennia philosophers for decades have

been asking question about freewill and

while we cannot give you the answer that

you look for whether or not humans have

free will we can definitely challenge

one concept which is the concept of the

real-time nests of freewill that is you

think that you made a choice when you

made a choice and we know that the

choice was made may be freely but

seconds before you knew about the choice

so you made the choice to take the pasta

and if I asked you when you would say

when I said pasta and we can go into

your brain and no fractions of a second

before you said passed out it it’s kind

of blurring there and that and that

you’re about to say pasta in a second

interesting and then and then you

mentioned the choices that are good and

bad for us I mean how do so the choices

that make us happy the choices that make

us sad so I mean what can we talk about

that a bit so let’s take simple ones

let’s take things that actually hurt you

like smoking

so there’s smokers out there and they

say if you ask them I don’t want to

smoke I wish I didn’t want to but I’m

interested in that and it’s rewarding

and it’s a attracting me and I just

cannot stop so this is a choice the

person says I shouldn’t do but I

do another question is it’s the same

brain that says I don’t want to do that

and the brain that says stop doing that

and do that so the question is can we

amplify the side of the brain that wants

to stop at the expense of the one that

wants to do and help that one win over

the other and the answer is we can we

can go there and we can essentially help

you control yourself better and that’s a

profound thing because control is is not

a it’s a physiological thing it’s

something that’s in us and we can now

manipulate things and help you get

access to yourself in a better way yeah

it’s a very profound thing so I mean

let’s let’s get deeper with that how are

we how are we able to do this I mean

what what actual technologies are we

using when we discover and use this so

in our brain there are mechanisms that

are in charge of experiences feeling

things going through thoughts and just

being exposed to them and there are ones

that are more controlling things they’re

kind of feedbacks and inputs inside

their brain so if you want to simplify

it as much as possible you can think

about the front part of your brain as a

part of your brain that is responsible

for self-control and for regulation of

other parts of the brain so I’ll give an

example in the world of emotions for

instance and then we can talk about the

world of smoking so emotions are

something that is in our brain but we

don’t really have control over it it

kind of happens to us like you don’t say

you know someone that I love is sick I

think I should be said now let’s

activate sadness sadness starts

happening and you say okay I was set for

10 minutes let’s stop sadness and move

on let’s it’s kind of happening to you

and you’re exposed to it it dawns on you

as if it’s something that you wanted but

it’s your brain making things that you

are just witnessing right and the

question is can we control it can we

stop the sadness if we want to or can we

stop the anger we want to or can we

increase the happiness is is there any

way for us to access those mechanisms

that are in our own brain so how come

the brain that’s ours isn’t letting us

control everything so we know that you

can actually change some

by giving them different inputs we know

that the sadness isn’t coming from

nowhere it’s usually based on memories

and thoughts that you experience you get

inputs that fit into your brain and your

brain responds by sadness so the other

question is can we change the inputs or

the connections or something that will

make you feel less sad and the answer is

yes we do it in a very crude way but

we’re already learning how it works and

what we do is we basically stick

electrodes if you want I’m saying it is

if it’s metaphorically but we actually

do it in a very clear way we stick

electrodes people’s brain in areas of

the brain that correspond or correlate

nicely with emotions and feelings and

then we also put another electrodes in

the part of the brain in the front of it

that has to do with emotion regulation

and we essentially tell a patient here’s

your emotions manifested by a sound that

we play to you in the womb we want it to

make the sound disappear doing that

involves teaching yourself how to make

yourself less said even though nothing

changed in the world whatever bad things

made you said are still there but try to

learn how to control your sadness and

the person tries various techniques and

I can tell you a few of them that work

and a few they don’t work but somehow

they learn to control this sound in the

womb that is just a direct

implementation of their experience of

sadness and in doing so they actually

minimize their sadness and essentially

they learned how to access this part of

the brain that normally they just expose

to a not controlling now this is example

of emotion we do the same thing with

what you see that’s out in the world how

much you want this a additional

cigarette and so on basically teaching

you how to control yourself better wow

this is amazing ok there’s so there’s so

much information that I want to kind of

want to dig into here so from what I’m

hearing you you’re conducting

experiments where you put people in a

room where you hook up electrodes into

certain regions regions of their brain

in which they they control they adjust

or control somehow somehow what the way

their brain is functioning so that they

feel less sad

my understanding is correctly yes let’s

explain the technical part which is by

itself I think remarkable and then and

then suddenly the just learning to

control your emotions which is

remarkable it’s gonna sound even less

remarkable because of the magnitude of

the first path so what we do is we

partner with neurosurgeons

who work with patients who undergo brain

surgery for clinical purposes so imagine

that you have epilepsy which means part

of your brain a small cell or set of

cells in your brain for some reason

start speaking by themselves with no

reason and they make the entire brain go

into an earthquake of speaking without

any provocation which effectively means

that you lose your consciousness you

fall down you shake and for a while

you’re not there then it could be really

risky this is epilepsy the solution for

that for most patients our medications

that help minimize the activity in their

brains in the areas that are affected by

it so they have no seizures small number

of people don’t respond well to

medications and for them the only

solution is to open your brain and find

the exact part of the brain that starts

the problem starts the seizure the focus

of the onset of the seizure and take

this part out so now the surgeons bring

the patient they open their brain and

they stick electrodes inside in the

areas of the brain that they think are

suspected to be the source of the

problem and then those wires are

connected to a computer and the patient

sits there awake for a period of

sometimes two weeks while their brain is

exposed and there’s wires inside their

head waiting to have seizure and the

idea is that in the course of those two

weeks that they’re there at some point

they’re going to have a seizure and

because we now have electrodes inside

their head we could actually monitor the

seizure as it happens and trace the

parts of the brain that started the

seizure and know exactly which part is

responsible for it and then after two

weeks after you had a few of those

seizures and we’re certain that we know

what part of the brain is causing the

problem the surgeons gonna take the

electrodes out she’s gonna resect the

part of the brain that

causes the problem close everything and

send you back home

seizure-free so you’re gonna be fixed

all of this is the clinical part that

happens regularly in many places all

over the globe when there’s patients who

have epilepsy and need to have it fixed

what we do is we piggyback on this

surgery we show up to the place and we

tell the patient you know you’re gonna

be here now for two weeks with open

brain and electrodes inside with coding

your brain activity and all I do is just

wait to have a seizure which will happen

at some point but in between there’s

gonna be days and days where nothing

happens do you mind letting us ask your

question show you movies redo stories

talk to you about your feelings

decisions in emotions and memories

anything you can tell us about yourself

while we have electrodes in your brain

so we can actually learn how the brains

of humans work from the inside so this

is like hacking into a computer but also

having access to the motherboard

we have electrodes deep inside the

motherboard and we see how the

processing happens from the inside and

the patients are always very eager to

participate they’re sitting there for

days and days with us and we conduct a

series of studies on them that all ask

simple questions with profound answers

so we make the person actually choose

pasta or salad but now we can see the

cells in his or her brain that come to

life seconds before they say pasta and

now we know she’s about to say pasta in

two seconds so sorry talking about to

pre-fund frontal cortex or what region

are the of the brain or are we focusing

on here so based on the problem patients

have we change our electrode locations

every time so if the problem seems to

come and show itself or the source of

the epilepsy

seems to emerge mostly in the middle

font area we’ll put electrodes around

this area it seems to be the case that

most of the times we get a certain set

of areas that repeat themselves because

both that’s often where the seizure on

sets are but also those are the areas

that you can actually take out so if the

patient comes and they have a problem in

any of the brain that’s going to make

them lose their battle to speak if you

take it out

even though it

the problematic area we want to the

surgery because you cannot just take it

out and have them work the same way so

only certain patients actually get to go

through this procedure and those are the

ones that have the epilepsy in locations

that we can indeed work with okay okay

so I mean in your TED talk to you you

talk you describe an experiment with a

woman watching video clips with these

electrodes embedded in her brain kind of

like you’re discussing now I mean is

there any certain experiment that I mean

was remarkable to you or kind of was

game-changing for you that that was

expanded your research so to me there

are two studies that to me were the most

interesting ones out of the variety of

studies we ran with those patients one

is the simplest study we could have

imagined but the results were remarkable

and those study where we took the

patient and we showed her a variety of

images one after the other so she sees a

picture of President Obama then a

picture of an Apple computer then a

picture of the Eiffel Tower in Paris and

just a series of pictures with no

particular order or no particular

content that’s kind of weave them

together just random things and while

she sees those pictures we monitor her

brain until we find a cell in her brain

that comes to life becomes very active

when she looks at picture number one

let’s say a picture of the Eiffel Tower

so now we see picture of the Eiffel

Tower front of our eyes cell number

fifty fires and then we show the picture

again cell fires again we take it out

cell stops firing what we learned first

is that if we showed this woman any

picture of the Eiffel Tower or even said

the word Eiffel Tower or just sprayed a

smell that reminds of the Eiffel Tower

the same cell fires because this cell

codes the concept that thought the idea

of the Eiffel Tower and doesn’t respond

to a specific picture this is what it

means for your brain to think of the

Eiffel Tower so this was already

markable with what I think was the most

valuable version of the studies we did

was when we told the woman we’re gonna

now put in one of your eyes a picture of

the Eiffel Tower you’re gonna see it now

in front of your wires and we asked you

to make still that codes the Eiffel



work as in a you’re gonna see a picture

your brain is gonna know what it is and

we ask it to somehow suppress a thought

inside your head such that you won’t

think about the thing that is part of

your eyes it’s like not thinking of the

white bear only that the white bear is

in front of you and to make it easier

for this woman we basically use the

electrodes that’s in her brain to

generate a sound dome that corresponds

to the activity of these cells so

essentially we show this woman how much

she is thinking of the white bear so

when she sees the white bear the thought

of sound the woman when she doesn’t say

their silence so we kind of take the

cell in her brain and big make it

something that is visible for her she

can actually see her thoughts in action

and now we tell her you’re gonna see the

white bill or the Eiffel Tower in this

example then you’re gonna hear the sound

of course that correspond to it try to

find a way to suppress the sound

essentially to make yourself not see the

Eiffel Tower in front of your eyes and

the patients finds techniques that

allows her to essentially learn how to

not see things that are out there and

this is remarkable as a result by itself

but to me it’s more profound because it

suggests that the reality that our brain

experiences is filtered by our senses

and we can actually teach our brain to

not see things that are there or to see

things that are not there with very

little training so we think of the world

is there and we just get exposed to it

but now we know that the wall that’s out

there is just a proposal and we can

choose whether to see it as it is or not

I find this remarkable so you are you’re

actually on the cutting edge of this

this research and it’s very

groundbreaking can you can you describe

a little bit about I mean how do you

sewn in on one specific cell that is

sending a signal

it’s a tiring tiring process of showing

so we stick about 60 to 100 electrodes

in a person’s brain in the area where

they actually have a problem that we

hope to capture so we have about 100 at

best cells that we’re going to listen to

there’s billions and billions of cells

in your head so we

working at a fraction of what your brain

can do and then we start showing you

pictures and we show you picture after

picture after picture for many many many

minutes and we just hope that at some

point one of them is going to trigger

one of those cells and surprisingly the

yield is actually not too small we do

find every now and then a few of those

hundred cells respond to a few of those

hundred pictures and I should say that

we’re not just fishing in a lake with no

idea what we’re looking for we kind of

know where the electrodes are and what

this part of the brain is responsible

for so we try to target this thing so if

we put the letters in the brain if if I

were to simplify it if we put electrodes

in the brain in the area of the brain

that’s responsible for seeing faces we

would try to show you mostly pictures of

faces or not just like landmarks or

objects hoping that we’re gonna capture

one of the cells that cares about faces

if we put electrodes in the part of your

brain it has to do with memories we

would ask you first what things are

memorable for you and we want to show

you things that are relevant for you so

we kind of get you to help us find

things this is what’s the market ball

about humans they can tell you what they

want and you can do that there’s a wired

video where you talk about how the brain

is the puppeteer and we are simply the

agents what what would what were you

saying what do you mean by it by that so

here’s the meaning and I’ll even

convince you that it’s 2 4 of us what I

mean by that is that things that we do

and say sometimes booing and happening

in our brain before we choose to say

them or think them and when they come

out of our mouth we immediately own them

and we say yes of course I wanted it but

if I could go inside your brain and

change something you would maybe say the

opposite and you would still own that so

we’re not really the main person that we

should believe we should believe the

person inside who made a choice so here

is like translating that into something

more practical imagine that you go to

mouth to a pharmacy store and you’re

choosing to buy toothpaste and there are

two options there’s Colgate on the left

and crest on the right and you’re now

making a choice

then you spend five minutes making this

choice you look at the package and you

look at the price and you look at the

color and the promotion and everything

and in the end you say definitely

Colgate and you put it in your basket

and you’re starting to walk through the

aisles doors the checkout and you made a

choice if I stopped you and I asked you

why you chose called me will tell me I

liked the taste and I liked the price

was a bit cheaper and the package was

beautiful and whatever and so you’re

gonna give me this would seem to you

like it’s your answer now imagine that

on the way to the checkout I snuck into

your basket and we placed your

toothpaste with the other one you chose

Colgate I put Crestor you get it to the

checkout and somehow react lessly

you don’t notice that you bought the one

who didn’t want you pay for it when you

go home and when you get home your

friend says hey did you get toothpaste

you said you gonna buy any say of course

and you look at there and there’s

Craster and the guy asked your where you

chose crest why the reality is that if

enough time passed for the multimeter

choice to the moment you have to explain

the choice sometimes we forget

metaphorically but also neurologically

the choice that was made and we explain

the reality that we’re confronted with

as if it was our choice and you’re going

to start explaining why crest is better

than Colgate and why the price was

better and what the packaging you’re

gonna tell a different story just

because this is the reality that you’re

facing right now not even remembering

that when you had the choice you made a

different choice so we don’t want to

feel like we are out of control we want

to feel like we are in control of our

choices and making decisions absolutely

and we always explain so our brain

what’s unique to our brain and it makes

sense why it’s that case is that we

always come up with an answer whatever

in reality we are experiencing right now

we give it a story then we take the past

and we take what we remember about

memories and we use that to create a

narrative that explains us and it

doesn’t really matter to us if the

original construct isn’t entirely – we

might actually be mistaken but it’s

still the reality that you cannot weave

into a story you don’t really know how

it was to be four year old anymore all

you have is some residues of residues of

memories that you take right now and

explain your story right now as if it

was the store

that you were when you were four year

old okay okay I’m starting to get the

picture here of what you guys are doing

have you noticed a difference between

people who study meditation and maybe a

difference between people who have

healthy minds versus unhealthy minds so

it’s interesting we look at that in two

angles and in they’re both interesting

so meditation is something that I don’t

practice myself but our work clearly

lends itself to a altered state of

consciousness so a lot of people who

Carolyn tation come to us and say this

reminds me of a or B and we try to use

their understanding of how it works to

explain our results and I think there’s

something to it there’s something to

having a clear state to being more able

to focus on single thoughts to even

learn how to really see the world

differently I think the people who

practice meditation are saying that they

are able to do what we train our

patients to do which is learn to focus

on some realities and not the others and

see or unsee things I think this is this

is something that ties to that generally

I think that our work looks at the one

things in humans which is consciousness

and consciousness has various levels in

our lives it has the level of alertness

that we have when we wake up in the

morning versus the one that we

experience when we are sleeping

different same brain different states of

consciousness we have the consciousness

of a three-year-old three-month-old baby

that’s the same bit person that you are

when you’re 25 but somehow your brain

changes and accordingly the

consciousness changes there’s the

consciousness that you go to when you

are going through meditation in other

states of changes the consciousness of

you and you’re drunk

a consciousness of you when you’re under

anesthesia yeah and all those cases are

the same brain just in different states

and you can be an entirely different

person in your mind based in those

states so what we’re trying to get

always is to the kernel of what is

similar across all of those cases what

is really you that doesn’t really change

when you make a choice in the morning or

in the evening when you’re sleeping or

awake when you’re a psycho healthy under

anesthesia or not and I think this is

what I’m interested in look

who is the real you who is the actual

self here you’re looking at what is the

actual self what comprises the the self

of a human being yes and the idea behind

it one more summons on that is that the

belief and we have is that if you touch

this coal or this kernel because it

relays its information to the other part

of the brain that then executes them and

believe that they are responsible if you

come in between you can actually change

people’s behavior you can take a smoker

and make them not want to smoke you can

take people and make them want to eat

different things healthier you can make

a person who set the alarm to 6:00 a.m.

who wakes up and then doesn’t want to be

up at 6:00 a.m. be more to to the person

who set the alarm to 6:00 a.m. so you

know the conflict in our brain when we

wake up between snoozing for five more

minutes or being up like we plan to

these are all manifestations of their

brain and maybe I should say one more

thing one sentence but then you can ask

me if you want more about that we also

work with people who seem to be better

at this self control and able to control

themselves even better and also

typically elite athletes so we work with

elite athletes who basically get to a

level that they’re say running for 10

miles and then they are tired but

somehow they have this ability to keep

running even though their brain says I

want to stop and somehow most of us stop

when we cannot and they continue so we

try to understand their brain and see

what’s unique to a person whose brain is

just even more under his or her control

okay yeah yeah let’s let’s keep going

with that so what do I mean what is the

difference between someone who is an

elite performer and let’s get into that

human performance aspect fantastic so

what we seem to think then that’s a

common belief among scientists right now

is that there are positive brain that

act exact like a muscle that is if they

get more feedback and if they get more

reward that says that what they do is

working the strength and the connections

and they become better at this

particular task one of those parts is

part of your brain that controls your

pain and controls your endurance and

controls your experiences of the world

and this is again this part of the brain

that is remarkable and it’s the front of

our brain it’s part of your brain that

speaks backwards to emotions and to pain

and to

always and and to pretty much everything

that our brain does without us being in

control and somehow fits information

into them so what we do is we partnered

with a big kind of company that has

access to athletes and we brought those

athletes and they are known so they’re

famous elite athletes we brought them to

the lab and we said okay we’re gonna

play a little game with you so imagine

an athlete say Kobe Bryant a remarkable

basketball player that we didn’t study

so I can mention him easily we’ll bring

him and we say Kobe we’re gonna put you

on a treadmill right now and we’re gonna

measure everything that we can measure

about you your blood levels your

hormones in your body you’re a brain

activity your muscle movement everything

we can measure and we ask it to walk on

the treadmill

and we’re gonna control the speed by

which you’re gonna be on a treadmill and

we’re gonna make it faster sometimes

we’re gonna change the incline we’re

gonna do all kinds of things to you and

we ask you one thing no matter what

please don’t stop walking or running

just don’t stop you like a little you

guys it’s sure no problem how long is it

gonna be we tell the guy you don’t know

it’s gonna be maybe 10 minutes maybe 2

hours all you have to do is continue and

what we do is we intentionally increase

the speed and make it pretty much

impossible so no matter how good Kobe

Bryant is as an athlete we can find a

speed that will exhaust him after a few

minutes of running and and he would want

to stop train and then he would run for

say 10 minutes at this super fast speed

that we set for him and then you would

say guys I’m really exhausted where am I

gonna stop and we say no no continue

we’re gonna tell you when to stop any

guy says ok one more mile and then he

says guys I’m really tired we’re never

gonna stop and we say well continue

we’re gonna tell you and essentially at

some point he or she breaks I think they

just say enough I’m stopping right the

reality is that we actually wanted them

to do that we never intended to help

them stop at all what we wanted to do is

see at what point they would break and

essentially and mostly how their brain

looks just before they break and the

reality is that you know when you and I

start running I don’t know how good you

are as an athlete but let’s say let’s

give you the benefit of being a

fantastic asset so you run a marathon 26

miles and you can do the

then you’re exhausted but you can still

do that but then I tell you actually one

more mallet on you say are you serious

everything you can do let me say try

then you try five more miles in it’s

mile 31 your brain is still the same

brain it says run but somehow there’s a

part of your brain that now says no I

want to stop when the same brain says no

run and the other one says stop and

there are in kind of conflict and maybe

the conflict in the beginning is managed

so the part of the brain that says run

is winning but at some point it’s gonna

lose and the question is can we see this

competition in your brain who is really

you between those two and if we can see

that can we bring you tomorrow and say

ok so here do the same thing before run

but you can look at your brain now and

you’re gonna see when you get to the

point that you got to yesterday when you

were about to stop and when you get

there we’re gonna play a sound or turn a

light on or somehow indicate to you know

it’s your dare that we know that you’re

in the moment where you’re about to quit

and we just ask you now to stay for one

more minute at this spot that yesterday

you couldn’t be in and it doesn’t matter

it might be that you yesterday you ran

31 miles today after five miles you got

to this point but all I want is to you

for you to get there and stay there a

little longer and this is actually

training your self-control it’s training

you to become better in controlling your

pain or your endurance on your ability

and it turns out that this is possible

to take any person and make them better

on that that domain we can also find

people that just start great kids age 7

that just get to a point where they are

feeling this desire to stop and they’re

able to stay there longer than their

friends who are just stopping right away

this might be a trait that our brain

starts with but it also is a muscle that

we can train so this is where we’re

going right now so so that feedback

you’re finding out that that feedback

assists people in going further and

pushing their limits further it helps

and it helps in two ways it helps

because suddenly you’re not alone like

if you actually get a feeling that

someone is with you and it also helps

because it feels like it’s a tangible

task that you can manage so it feels

that one more minute is always possible

you know if you run a 26-mile marathon

maybe after my 15 you’re exhausted and

you say I don’t think I can do it and I

don’t think I can make it into 16 – 17

miles but when you somehow get to mile

26 and you’re maybe half a mile from the

finish line you have this boost of power

that says oh I can definitely get to the

end because it’s there and you can see

it and and I think very few people in

the world have stopped running at Mile

26.1 somehow people always finish when

they get to the very end of the race in

the same way I think that our athletes

just by getting the feedback that tells

them we know that you’re feeling this

this pain we know that you want to stop

but here it is one more minute from this

point makes them somehow stay for one

more minute and and this is what you

need to train this this is how muscles

this is are we talking about the neuro

plasticity in the brain then and we are

we’re stretching that yes so so the

explanation of that so we all we can see

right now is the kind of the brain

getting to this state because we do this

study not with the patients but with

regular athletes and so we don’t have

electrodes inside our brain just on the

surface of their scalp so we can only

see kind of activity and interfere from

that what happened so we don’t really

see the level of plasticity that we want

to see but what I would suggest is that

this is the case that the cells that are

controlling the pain levels let’s let’s

let’s simplify it as if the entire

experience of running amounts to pain

that says I want to stop when another

part of the brain says continue somehow

the feedback from the controlling the

pain structure he gets more strength and

it amounts to more connections being

created and more connections between

those connections so every connection is

a little bit stronger and also has more

power things which is actually what you

said plasticity just I’m trying to use a

word that is not neuro scientifically

but actually imagine a tree that has

just one more root being created those

woods are actually the connections that

the brain is absorbing all this very

very and different domains of our work

environment yeah it’s okay you know I’m

very curious about this idea I mean

we’re talking about altered states of

consciousness and

different brainwave states and I mean

have you have you tried using LSD on

patients and or psilocybin or MDMA and

kind of seeing where their brain is with

these experiments so I did not I feel

that the fact that we get to even access

the brains of documents is already so

unique and surprising that I’m not gonna

dare ask for even more then you don’t

want to push your limits any further but

your your feedback is is hitting that

buzzer your brain is telling you not to

go for any further right but I do know

that others do that so I have a few

colleagues who do just that

and where we have a lot of knowledge is

on using the same readings with animals

so I focus on humans because I feel that

what’s unique to us is that we can

articulate what’s going on in our brain

so we can learn a lot more from an

experiment on a human then on a mouse

but it’s not entirely true because on a

mouse you can actually do a lot more

things and you can actually scan a lot

more brain cells and you can actually

put electrodes in a variety of areas

that that tell you not just what happens

at the end but also what bosses have

have been involved in the making of a

thought so you can learn a lot more and

this is done so there are scientists who

look at those altered states of

consciousness it’s just that we don’t

really know what it means to be a rat

that is in a different set of

consciousness we’re not sure that that

what we call a human experience is what

a rat calls a rat experience it’s very

interesting ok so come on I want to play

a little bit of devil’s advocate a

little bit of a thought experiment with

you ok so if we if we kind of fast

forward 20 years from now and you know

we’re we’re understanding these behave

the ways to kind of adjust be human

behavior do you think do you think there

would be you know this this sort of

mechanism or device that we could create

which controls human behavior so that

let’s say in in regards to sort of an

immoral behavior so let’s say that

someone or something has dictated that

committing a certain crime we’re

committing a certain action is bad and

wrong do you think there could ever be a

device that maybe is wearable or

injectable maybe a microchip that you

inject into your brain where which which

would prevent human beings from

committing these acts in 2020 in 15 five

years from now so I’m thinking out loud

on this talk so on the one hand

controlling our brains externally is

something that I can merely frame in a

way that’s gonna sound to you mundane

very actually is happening all the time

and there is a content and communication

so when I speak to you right now I

control your brain a little bit you

choose to let me in but I start changing

your brain I often give talks and

someone asked me my thoughts about about

drugs they say should I shouldn’t do

drugs and I say maybe what’s behind our

question is but it changes my brain is

it okay and I always say that everything

changes our brain love changes our brain

our bad breakup changes our brain and

talking to me right now changes your

brain I make you they create connections

and in the same so in that sense people

that are masters of communication are

able to make you do things that you

didn’t want to do they play with your

emotions they control things and we

think that we are in control of our own

brain this is kind of the puppet in the

popliteal again we think that we are in

control so we tell a story as if it was

me listening and you speaking but the

allottee is that there’s a little bit of

an overlap here and I have some of me in

your brain right now that I own I I can

change something in your brain and you

cannot stop me

and saying goes when you talk to me so

there is something about communication

that actually does what you said

it just sounds less alarming but it

actually has a very clear kind of you

know a practical aspect to it which is

the people we spend time next to and the

interactions we choose to have in the

communication which is to have and the

surroundings we create is really

important to what kind of brain one I

have so if you want to be funny you

should be next to funny people if you

want to be interesting you should be

next interesting people because their

brains rather

on to yours not just if you say teach me

how to be funny

just by yours are influenced by the

people around you exactly so this is

this is not what you wanted to give you

kind of asked me but they I know hey I

was gonna say my questions yeah so so so

taking it to the mall a science fictiony

but actually potential reality

controlling our brains we have it now a

knowledge on ability to control people’s

brains regardless of their resistance

I’ll give you example for one thing and

and this could go badly so we know right

now the term moments where your brain is

less guarded and is more likely to be

see like receiving information and

responding to it without you being able

to stop that and that’s a moment where

if you think about it from the point of

view of a hacker

it’s a moment will you turn all your

security is down and you just let every

hacker come in and that is our sleep

when you go to bed we essentially are

not there to stop things from from

getting in right now our brain is not

really listening at those moments so

it’s pretty safe the gates are locked

but we now know that our windows in your

sleep where the brain is open it is

listening it sounds that you make in the

outside world actually penetrate the

brain smells penetrated brain tactile

experience penetrates the brain so we

know that actually there are moments

where the guards are down and you’re

listening so now we know that there are

studies done in the last year and a half

that show a person going to sleep and

someone next to them spraying smells at

the right moment it’s how to find this

fight window but we now know how to do

that so sprays smell at the right time

oh we Spurs words into the ears at the

right time and when they wake up they

actually make a choice that they think

was theirs or to actually remember

something that they think they put there

and it turns out that it was this other

person who planted that and that means

that we can think of a world where you

go to sleep and there’s a device next to

your head that whispers the right words

or sprays right smells in the right

moment and you wake up thinking you

always wanted to buy Colgate and it

turns out that it wasn’t you

wanted it it was me putting it in your

brain in your sleep this still is not

it’s not science fiction because we

tried it but it’s not science because we

also fail as many times as we succeeded

but it means that I think the audience

and society needs to be aware of that

and kind of keep an eye because once

something succeeds even once it’s just a

matter of finding the tools to fix it

all the time and we know that the brain

is capable of doing that so now it’s a

matter of who will find the perfect tool

and the perfect thing that they can do

and this is really alarming this means

someone can you know have you go to

sleep a Democrat and wake up Republican

I mean this is about what happened but

you know the level of like a Colgate and

Christ must have mice maybe will happen

so wow I mean I I feel like there’s so

much information that we’re covering so

quickly and I appreciate your ability to

speak so fast it cut her at all

this is lasted we just call I know and

so I mean okay so just just to review

you know kind of everything that we’ve

been talking about for the last 45

minutes or so um okay so our our brains

are essentially mutable we can change we

can change what our brains are doing and

we can we can change our brains both in

positive and negative ways so in a sense

I can influence you to do something that

you weren’t

maybe intending on doing by introducing

a stimulus or something when you are in

a susceptible state to influence your

behavior my my own right track here so

so then I mean what does on on a health

perspective I mean what what is the

research showing to help humans other

than just you know quitting smoking I

mean what would be the most remarkable

advance that that you could say that it

could happen with with this with studies

that you’re you’re doing so I’ll give

you I’ll give you a three one-liners so

you’ll get everything so one thing we

can actually change your behavior in the

way that we mentioned make you

stop smoking make you eat healthier food

make you choose when to wake up such

that you wake up in a better state it

make you everything that we can do that

comes between you making a choice and we

helping you make a better one tomorrow

that’s version one another thing we can

do right now is you can actually go

inside your head and find sections of

the brain that are decaying that are not

performing as well as they did before

imagine someone with Alzheimer whose

brain falls apart as they as the

structures of the brain now basically

they’re not doing what they supposed to

as they get older we can now learn

enough when you’re when you’re young how

these parts of the brain work to the

point that we can really replicate all

the performance of these sections that

fall apart such that we know what inputs

come in what outputs go out and win this

part fall apart we essentially come back

into your brain and we replace those

parts with a chip or a system that

basically all it knows is how to look at

inputs and look at the outputs then

replicate what this structure that is

now not working would have done this is

another version fixed in the brain and

the third one is actually connecting you

to the world such that you will get a

better understanding of the world and

this is talking about human experience

our human experience is limited to the

things that our senses are able to sense

so you know you right now see what you

see in the world and you call this the

world but we know that there’s a lot

more things out there that are just not

captured by your eye because you I can

only see certain amounts of colors and

so you don’t see the Rays of cell phone

beams that go from every pocket but

right there right so we can now but your

brain if if your eyes could pick that up

your brain knows what to do with that so

now we can think of enhancing the human

experience not by taking your brain then

changing it or by replacing faulty parts

but by actually fitting into the

existing brain more information from the

world that just tells you more about

what’s out there making your experience

so suddenly you will see a more you will

smell more you will be able to fill in

on molecules of dust that are on your

body that right now are below the

threshold of your tactile experience and

you can actually see orders to watch

dust in the room because I feel

and the ultimate level that this can go

to is that we don’t have to just connect

the world that’s out there by having

more senses feed into the brain we can

actually take things that have no sense

to them and fit into the brain here’s

what I mean by that when you drive your

car to work and you’re a gas is your car

is running empty about to have no gas we

right now turn a little light in the car

that says out of gas go get gas but this

basically is a light that speaks to your

eye that speaks to your brain and helps

you interpret this slide as I need to

get more gas what if you connected this

cow to your belly and from your belly to

your brain so it will make you feel

hungry when I was empty you’re gonna

feel hungry or when your stock portfolio

folds down you’re gonna feel pain that’s

a fact slate expenses in the world into

something that your brain recognizes

because we know how pain works in the

brain what we need to do is take

something in the world and plug it to

the brain and have the prayer and feel

the pain of the market or the emptiness

of the car fall or anything that we

anything that has a signal that we can

right now recognize with our senses just

by using our competitive aspects saying

okay when this light turns on the car is

empty need to get gas we can translate

to a feeling that will know how to

respond to because our brain will just

feel it

fascinating wow that’s I mean it’s it’s

truly mind-blowing I mean is is the

human experience that kind of we can

think about when it comes to you know

scientists call this thing a human

version 2.0 basically not just taking

what Mother Nature gave us and saying

okay we’re satisfied with that let’s

make sure that this is working well and

but actually taking okay well there’s

more things we want what about having

humans fly it bats fly they have wings

we know how to build wings

it’s just that Mother Nature didn’t give

us wings what if we built wings attach

them to the body connected to our brain

have our brain learn how to control them

and suddenly we can fly so all of those

things the evolution will spend millions

of years creating if it even is

advantageous but humans are now able to

do it tomorrow right yeah so more on

shifting gears a little bit here

yeah and this is kind of a personal

question I I spent a lot of time using

hemispheric synchronization where I mean

I’m sure you know what this is right

yeah okay so do you notice that there is

an improvement with with people who use

hemi-sync to kind of have their brain

hemispheres communicate so I don’t know

enough to give you the right answer

because I worked almost entirely on the

opposite of that which is looking at

people who don’t have a perfect

synchronization I try to think what

would be so okay so let me let me tell

you what we do know and maybe I’ll try

to think about it anything has to do

with how the brain basically keeps time

house synchronizes is something that we

we spend a lot of time looking into and

we know that we can toy with it and

break it and we know what happens when

we break that we know that we know that

if I if I have you you know tap on the

table a like a pattern like say tap

every every second one tap with both

your fingers you’re gonna be pretty much

perfectly accurate like your left index

finger and your writing fingers how

you’re going to tap at the same time

there’s gonna be zero or almost no delay

between the two fingers because your

brain to begin with is perfectly

synchronized and when you send the

directive to the left finger and to the

right finger it happens in the same time

but if you and I set in front of each

other and try to tap one second at the

time the table we’re gonna be far apart

because there is no synchronicity

between yours and my brain even though

we’re talking and we communicate and

everything there’s something that makes

a brain an individual entity but this is

current state right now your brain is

yours my brain is mine and they’re far

apart and so and they’re not working

together even though we have a method

called communication to actually kind of

create some residue of me in you and you

in me but one of my colleagues who looks

at consciousness in a very profound way

not just try to explain the current set

of consciousness but also the future

suggests that there shouldn’t be a

problem actually

being a wire going straight from your

brain to my brain and if you wire it in

the right place and the right time and

we actually control the bandwidth such

that communication really will flow from

yours then we can have an hemispheric

synchronization not between your left

and right hemispheres but y’all right

and my left then and it will actually

not only enhance our ability to

communicate and to you know really

synchronize behaviors like tapping a

finger every one second but potentially

it will actually mean that some

information will leak from you to me and

me to you such as we will share an

experience together Wow one of his

theories it is right now untestable but

suggested a really profound idea is that

when we would do that if we will find a

way to really plug one brain to another

but fully wired not just like using you

know reading from one and then

submitting the other what would happen

is that immediately what will emerge is

a third entity that will be the sum of

those two and it will think it’s one so

the same way you think my left

hemisphere and the right hemisphere are

both me and there’s only one me and

those two things are just sides of my

brain it’s not like they left how the

left side of the heart and the right of

the help thinking that there’s too hot

they think okay we’re part of a heart

the same way your brain it thinks

there’s one pain and you don’t got

hemispheric synchronicity as if you’re

trying to kind of improve the connection

of the munication between two sides of

your own hemisphere once we plug our two

brains the new character that will

emerge we’ll think of it self as one and

it will suddenly you know resist the

idea of putting it into pieces it would

resist the idea of actually cutting out

the wire and toes another i’m the whole

is me and if you cut the wire it would

feel as if you cut the connection

between the two hemispheres now this is

another speculation we can’t prove it

but all of the theory that you created

suggests that this will be a reality

that if you take it’s almost like a new

type of consciousness then exactly right

it calls it a to type a new type of

consciousness actually quantifies it

nicely and speaks about what it would

mean and going back to what we said a

few minutes a minute ago it’s something

that is hard to try and test

humans but we can actually imagine doing

something like that in some a very very

simplified version of a human like a

warm called C elegans that has only 304

neurons then we not only know what each

of those neurons do but we actually know

how to read them and write in to another

sale again so we can actually imagine

doing something along the lines of what

I just said is totally speculative in

science fictiony in the real world and

see if this new C elegans that’s

actually made out of – thinks that it’s

won and suddenly has different ideas of

what it means to hibernate or to walk

left or right or to eat food suddenly

things are gonna look different for her

total futuristic and science fiction the

idea but right now we can’t find any

reason to also discard this idea because

it makes sense from the neuroscientific

perspective Wow I wanna I’m I’m truly

blown away by this conversation which we

talked for and it’s been an hour almost

an hour and I feel like we’ve covered so

much information I just I mean it’s it’s

no surprise that you’ve been given

awards for your work and grants your

work and you know I really I’m really

curious to know you know where your work

is gonna be in two three four or five

even you know even a year from now where

you guys are gonna be let’s schedule to

talk so since science now advances so

fast and I told you about my work but

about also the work of ten other people

who all do something thing I think we

should they make it like an annual

gathering where we see what happened in

the last year yeah I’m completely up for

that so someone where can people find

what you were doing I know you’re

running C lab over there what’s the

website for that I guess I’m the easiest

person to find people always ask me to

have a business card and I just say look

at my name and and there’s everything

leads to the same place the lab that we

put is called a neuro hack comm yeah so

that’s that’s kind of combining the

neuro side and the hacking side so neuro

– hacks with s in the end comm is where

we try to put everything we do but we’re

always behind so this is at the podcast

it’s easier okay

so Nero Nero – hacks dot-com is where

everyone can find you exactly and yeah

Milan thank you so much for you know

lending us your time and and being here

really really appreciate everything that

you’re doing and and discussing it with

us thank you it was lovely this is a

human experience we are gonna get out of

here thank you guys so much for

listening we will see you guys next week

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