Transcript for Moran Cerf Ph.D. – The Razor’s Edge of Neuroscience

welcome to the human experience podcast

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strangers thank you for listening what’s

up folks

this is a hugely informative science

packed episode with dr. Mohan 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 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

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the human experiment as usual guys this

is an information packed episode that I

think you will really truly enjoy thank

you guys so much for listening

the human experience is diving back into

hacking the brain and human performance

as we speak to our guests mr. Mohan Cerf

Moe on my good sir welcome to hxp

thank you so much uh 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 wow 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 learn 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

talk 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 Kong

go in 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

they can

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 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 sell of to having multiple star

companies that are the kind of way that

Israel is growing its technology

infrastructure and also going to

academic world 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 boxes 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 that measures 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


the thermos let’s look at computers for

the brain we still somehow managed to

learn something about the brain okay 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 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 it’s

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


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 to 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 that you made

the answer such as before even ask

the question I can already assign some

abilities to what you’re going to choose

later and we can actually if we know far

enough what you’re going to choose we

can change things and make you choose

otherwise and this ties to a bigger

picture which is some choices that you

make of any bad for you 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 out of 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

the 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 know

fractions of a second before you said

pass stylet it’s kind of blurring there

and that ended 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 like 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 a 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 and

that the question is it’s the same brain

that says I don’t wanna

that and their 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 it’s at the brain so if you want

to simplify it as much as possible you

can think about the fourth 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 that nurse 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 everyone – 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 things by

giving them different inputs we know

that the sadness isn’t coming from

nowhere it

usually based on memories and thoughts

that you experience you get inputs that

feed to 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

wanted to make the sound disappear doing

that involves teaching yourself how to

make yourself less said even though

nothing change 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 additional cigarette

and so on basically teaching you how to

control yourself better wow this is


okay 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 the what the

way their brain is functioning so that

they feel less sad am i understanding

this correctly

yes let’s explain the technical part

which is by its

I think remarkable and then and then

suddenly they just learning to control

your emotions which is remarkable it’s

gonna sound even less remarkable because

of the magnitude of the first past 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

and it could be very 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 their 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 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


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 park 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 we’re coding your brain activity

and all you 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 and 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


we have electrodes deep inside a

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 so are we 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 a of

the brain that’s gonna make them lose

their battle to speak if you take it out

even though it’s the problematic area we

want to the surgery because you cannot

just take it out and

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 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 akhtar one

of our eyes

cell number 50 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 icon tower so this was already my

cue ball but what I think was the most

valuable version of the studies we did

was one we told the woman we’re gonna

now put in front 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 this tell that codes the

Eiffel Tower not work as in you’re gonna

see a pic

your brain is gonna know what it is and

we ask it to somehow suppress the

thought inside your head such that you

won’t think about the thing that is full

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 in the womb 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 of the woman when she

doesn’t see it her silence so we kind of

take the cell in her brain and 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 this sound

essentially to make yourself not see the

Eiffel Tower in front of your eyes and

the patient’s 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

oh 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’re looking 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 these things so if we put

electrodes in the brain if if I were to

simplify it if we put it right out 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 going to

capture one of the cells that cares

about faces if we put electrodes in the

part of your brain that has to do with

memories we would ask you first what

things are memorable for you and we’re

gonna show you things that are relevant

for you so we kind of get you to help us

find things this is what’s the mark

about 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 were

you saying what do you mean by by that

so here’s the meaning and even convince

you that it’s – four 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 a toothpaste and there

are two options there’s Colgate on the

left and crest on the right and you’re

now making a choice and you spend five

minutes making this choice you look at


package and you look at the price and

you look at the Colo 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 you

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 miraculously

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’re gonna buy and you say of

course and you look at there and there’s

Crestor 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 package 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

White’s that case is that we always come

up with an answer whatever in reality we

are experiencing right now we give it a

stoic 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 we’re

gonna 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 story

that you were when you were four

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 and

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 colonization 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

Co unsee things I think this is this is

something that ties to that generally I

think that our work looks at the one

thing with 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 months old

baby it’s the same big 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 you’re

in 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 like who is the real you who is

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 sometimes 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 you 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 those are

typically elite athletes so we work with

elite athletes who basically get to a

level that they’re say they’re running

for ten 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 let’s get into that

human performance aspect fantastic so

what we seem to think and 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 memories and and to pretty much


that our brain does without us being in

control and somehow feeds 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’re 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 your 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

eat you and we ask you one thing

no matter what please don’t stop walking

or running just don’t stop would 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

the train and then he would run for say

ten minutes at this super fast speed at

we set for him and then you would say

guys I’m really exhausted where am I

gonna stop and we say now now 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 what am I

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 inter

ality is that we actually wanted them to

do that we never intended to have them

stopped 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 at it so you run a marathon

26 miles and you can do that and you’re

exhausted but you can still do that

but then I tell you actually one more

mullet on you say are you serious I

everything I can do let me say try then

you try five more miles in it mile 31

your brain is still the same brain it

says on but somehow there’s a part of

your brain that now says no I want to

stop then the same brain says no run and

the other one says stop and there are in

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 will 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 did the

same thing it 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 that you’re

there 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 urine 31

miles and today after 5 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 or 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 to

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 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 years

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

don’t think I can make it even – 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 your feeling is 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 that 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 their 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 it 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 is very

very new and different domains of of

work 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 humans 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

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 –

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 poses

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 cause right experience it’s very

interesting ok so tomorrow 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 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 15 five

years from now so I’m thinking out loud

on this so 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

but it 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 asks me my thoughts about

about drugs they say should I shouldn’t

do drugs and I say 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 pet breakup changes our brain and

talking to me right now changes your

brain I make you 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 that

control things and we think that we are

in control of our own brain this is kind

of the puppet in the capital again we

think that we are in control so we tell

our story as if it was me listening and

you speaking but the reality 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 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 it

should be next to funny people if you

want to be interesting you should be

next interesting people because their

brains rather onto yours not just if you

say teach me how to be

money just by awesome or theater

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 yeah I was gonna say

questions yeah so so so taking it to the

mall a science fictiony but actually

potential reality controlling our prints

we have it now a knowledge on ability to

control people’s brains regardless of

their resistance and 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


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 that 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

brains 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 and it’s how to find

this right window but we now know how to

do it so sprays smell at the right time

well 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 they 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 turns

out that it wasn’t you who wanted it it

was me putting it in your brain in your


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 just a matter of

who will find the perfect tool and a

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 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 so fast

cut her at all this class that we just

caught yeah 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 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


maybe intending on doing by introducing

a stimulus or something when you are in

a susceptible state to influence your

behavior my my on the 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 with the 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’re

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 a 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 are basically

they’re not doing what they’re 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 those sections that

fall apart such that we know what inputs

come in what outputs go out and win

these parts fall apart

we essentially come back into your brain

then we replace those parts with a chip

or a system that basic all it knows is

how to look at the inputs and look at

the outputs then replicate what this

structure that is now not working would

have done this is another version of

fixing 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 even experience our human

experience is limited to the things that

our sensors are able to sense so you

know the 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 know I

can only see certain amounts of coalos

and so you don’t see the Rays of cell

phone beams that go from every pocket

but right there right so we can out but

your brain if if your eyes could pick

that up your brain knows what to do with

it so now we can think of enhancing the

human experience not by taking your

brain and 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 it

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 you can actually say others

too much dust in the room because I feel

it and they ultimate

this can go to is that we don’t have to

just connect the world that’s out there

by editing more census 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 your 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 what late experiences

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 parent

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

sensors just by using our competitive

aspect saying okay when this light turns

on the car is empty need to get gas we

can translate to a feeling that we’ll

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 I carry this is the human

experience that kind of we can think

about when it comes to you know

scientists call this thing 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 the 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 attached into the body

connected to our brain have our brain

learn how to control them and suddenly

we can fly so all of those things

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 tell you what

we do know and maybe we’ll try to think

about it anything has to do with how the

brain basically keeps time housing

crisis 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 happened 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 Favell 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 is

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 state of

consciousness but also the future

suggests that there shouldn’t be a


adding a wire going straight from your

brain to my brain and if we wire it in

the right place at 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 in

my left then and it we 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 that we will

share an experience together Wow one of

his Theo is 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

limiting 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 I love the heart and the right of

the help thinking that there’s too hard

do you think okay we’re part of a heart

the same way your brain thinks there’s

one plane and you don’t got hemispheric

synchronicity as if you’re trying to

kind of improve the connection of the

communication between two sides of your

own hemisphere once we plug our two

brains the new character that will

emerge will think of it self as one and

it will suddenly you know there’s this

the idea of putting it into pieces it

would resist the idea of actually

cutting out the wire and to say no I’m

the whole is me then 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 exactly

right it calls it a to type a new type

of consciousness actually quantifies it

nicely and in 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

in humans but we can actually imagine

doing something like that in some a very

very simplified version of a human like

a worm 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 C elegans 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 1 and suddenly has different

ideas of what it means to hibernate or

to walk left or right or to eat food

suddenly things are going to look

different for her total futuristic and

science fictiony idea but right now we

can’t find any reason to also discard

this idea because it makes sense from

the neuroscientific perspective Wow

Milana i’m truly blown away by this

conversation we till 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 2 3 4 or 5

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 10 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 area I’m completely up for that so

come on 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 if you have a business

card and I just say look my name and and

there’s everything leads to the same

place the lab that we put is called a

neuro hack dot-com yeah so that’s that’s

kind of combining the neuro side and the

hacking side so neuro – hacks with s in

the end com is where we try to put

everything we do but we’re always behind

so listen to the podcast it’s easier ok

so near Nero –

max calm is where everyone can find you

exactly and yeah Moe on 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 the

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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