Moran Cerf
Moran Cerf

Assistant Professor of Marketing

Print Overview

Moran Cerf is a professor of neuroscience and business at the Kellogg School of Management and the neuroscience program at Northwestern university.

Dr. Cerf is also a member of the institute on complex systems, and visiting faculty at the MIT Media Lab.

His research uses methods from neuroscience to understand the underlying mechanisms of our psychology, behavior changes, emotion, decision making and dreams.

His works address questions such as: "How are conscious percepts formed in our brain?", "How can we control our emotions?" and "Which brain mechanisms determine if we find content engaging?"

Recently, his focus has been on the neural mechanisms that underlie decision-making, thereby offering a new perspective on predicting future choices and investigating how much free will we have in our decisions. In his acclaimed work, Prof. Cerf studies patients undergoing brain-surgery by recording the activity of individual nerve cells using electrodes implanted in the patient's brain. Thus, his work offers a novel way to understand our psyche by observing the brain directly from within.

​Dr. Cerf holds a Ph.D in neuroscience from Caltech, as well as an MA in Philosophy and a B.Sc in Physics from Tel-Aviv University.

He holds multiple patents and his works have been published in wide-circulation academic journals such as Nature, as well as popular science journals such as Scientific American Mind, Wired, New Scientist and more. Additionally, his work has been portrayed in numerous media and cultural outlets such as CNN, BBC, Bloomberg, NPR, Time, MSNBC, and dozens of others. He has been featured in venues such as the Venice Art Biennial and China's Art, Science and Technology association, and has contributed to magazines such as Forbes, The Atlantic, Inc., and others.
He has made much of his research accessible to the general public via his public talks at PopTech, TED, TEDx, Google Zeitgeist, DLD and other venues, gathering millions of views and a large following.
Additionally, he is the beneficiary of several awards and grants for his work, including the Instructional improvement grant, and the prestigious president scholarship for excellence. He was recently named one of the "40 leading professors below 40".

Prior to his academic career, Dr. Cerf spent nearly a decade in industry, holding positions in computers security (as a hacker), pharmaceutical, telecom, fashion, software development, and innovations research. Currently, he serves on the advisory board of medical research and behavioral change companies, and is the director of research in a neuroscience think tank.
Notably, Dr. Cerf is the Alfred P. Sloan professor at the American Film Institute (AFI), where he teaches an annual screenwriting class on science in films, and is a consultant to various Hollywood films and TV shows, such as CBS' “Bull” and “Limitless”, USA Network's “Mr. Robot” and “Falling Water”, and more..
He is right handed

Areas of Expertise
Behavioral Economics
Cognitive Neuroscience
Communications: Computers
Communications: Verbal Presentations and Persuasion
Consumer Behavior
Consumer Decision-Making
Creativity and Innovation
Data Analysis

Print Vita
Ph.D., 2009, Neuroscience, California Institute of Technology
M.A., 2001, Philosophy of Science, Tel-Aviv University, Summa cum laude
B.S. , 2000, Physics, Tel-Aviv University

Academic Positions
Donald P. Jacobs Asst. Professor, Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University, 2013-present
Assistant Professor of Neuroscience, Neuroscience, Northwestern University, 2013-present
Alfred P. Sloan screenwriting professor, American Film Institute, 1998-present
Post-doctoral scholar, Stern School of Business, New York University, 2010-2013
Assistant Professor, Neurosurgery, UCLA, 2009-2014

Other Professional Experience
Consultant, Vivvva, 2009-2010
Product Architect, Customer Instructor, TTI Telecom, 2002-2003
Consultant, Pharmaco-Kinesis, 2008-2009
Inventor, Systemic Inventive Thinking, 2000-2002
Software Developer, Team Leader, Log-On Software, 1998-2000
Intelligence, Israeli Defense Forces, 1995-1998
Hacker, iMPERVA, 2002-2005
R&D Trainer, Check Point Software Technologies, 2000-2002

Honors and Awards
Stupid award: Selected as '40 business professors below 40', Poets and Quants
Pineapple Award, Zhejiang Association for Science and Technology
Equipment Grant, NSF
Northwestern Institute for Complexity Seed Award
McManus chair award, Annual

Editorial Positions
Associate Editor, Sage, 2014
Associate Editor, Frontiers in Decision Making, 2013

Print Research
Mentovich, Avital, Aziz Huq and Moran Cerf. 2015. The psychology of corporate rights. Journal of Law and Human Behavior.
Cerf, Moran and Samuel Benjamin Barnett. 2015. Epilepsy - eavesdropping on the conversations of rebellious neurons. Journal of Neurolohy and Neurophysiology.
Cerf, Moran, Michael MacKay and Christof Koch. 2012. Evidence for Two Distinct Mechanisms Directing Gaze in Natural Scenes. Journal of Vision. 12(4): 1-12.
Birmingham, Elina, Moran Cerf and Ralph Adolphs. 2011. Comparing Social Attention in Autism and Amygdala Lesions Effects of Stimulus and Task Condition. Social Neuroscience. 6(5-6): 420-35.
Mormann, Florian, Julian Dubois, Simon Kornblith, Milica Milosavljevic, Moran Cerf, Matias Ison, Naotsugu Tsuchiya, Alexander Kraskov, Rodrigo Quian Quiroga, Ralph Adolphs, Itzhak Fried and Christof Koch. 2011. A Category-Specific Response to Animals in the Right Human Amygdala. Nature Neuroscience. 14: 1247-49.
Ison, Matias, Florian Mormann, Moran Cerf, Christof Koch, Itzhak Fried and Rodrigo Quian Quiroga. 2011. Selectivity of Pyramidal Cells and Interneurons in the Human Medial Temporal Lobe. Journal of Neurophysiology. 106(4): 1713-21.
Cerf, Moran, Nikhil Thiruvengadam, Florian Mormann, Alexander Kraskov, Rodrigo Quian Quiroga, Christof Koch and Itzhak Fried. 2010. On-line, Voluntary Control of Human Temporal Lobe Neurons. Nature. 467(7319): 1104-08.
Pedreira, Carlos, Florian Mormann, Alexander Kraskov, Moran Cerf, Itzhak Fried, Christof Koch and Rodrigo Quian Quiroga. 2010. Responses of Human Medial Temporal Lobe Neurons Are Modulated by Stimulus Repetition. Journal of Neurophysiology. 103: 97-107.
Cerf, Moran, Paxon Frady and Christof Koch. 2009. Faces and Text Attract Gaze Independent of the Task: Experimental Data and Computer Model. Journal of Vision. 9(12): 1-15.
Mormann, Florian, Simon Kornblith, Rodrigo Quian Quiroga, Alexander Kraskov, Moran Cerf, Itzhak Fried and Christof Koch. 2008. Latency and Selectivity of Single Neurons Indicate Hierarchical Processing in the Human Medial Temporal Lobe. Journal of Neuroscience. 28(36): 8865-72.
Cerf, Moran. 2008. What matters is attention not intention: Insights from computational neuroscience of vision. International Journal of Advertising. 27(3): 381-398.
Einhauser, Wolfgang, Frank Schumann, Johannes Vockeroth, Klaus Bartl, Moran Cerf, Jonathan Harel, Erich Schneider and Peter Konig. 2008. Distinct Roles for Eye and Head Movements in Selecting Salient Image Parts During Natural Exploration. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. 1137: 188-93.
Milosavljevic, Milica and Moran Cerf. 2008. First Attention then Intention: Insights from Computational Neuroscience of Vision. International Journal of Advertising. 27(3): 381-98.
Cerf, Moran, Dan R. Cleary, Rob J. Peters, Wolfgang Einhauser and Christof Koch. 2007. Observers are Consistent When Rating Image Conspicuity. Vision Research. 47(27): 3052-60.
Book Chapters
Cerf, Moran. 2014. "A psychological perspective on punishing corporate entities." In Regulating Corporate Criminal Liability, edited by Dominik Brodowski, Manuel Espinoza, Elsevier.
Cerf, Moran, Hagar Gerlbard-Sagiv and Itzhak Fried. 2013. "Studying Thoughts and Deliberations Using Single-Neuron Recordings in Humans." In Atoms of Cognition. Probing Single Neurons in the Human Brain, edited by Itzhak Fried, Moran Cerf, Ueli Rutishauser and Gabriel Kreiman, Cambridge: MIT Press.
Rutishauser, Ueli, Moran Cerf and Gabriel Kreiman. 2013. "Data Analysis Techniques for Human Microwire Recordings: Spike Detection and Sorting, Decoding, Relation Between Units and Local Field Potentials." In Atoms of Cognition. Probing Single Neurons in the Human Brain, edited by Itzhak Fried, Moran Cerf, Ueli Rutishauser, Gabriel Kreiman, Cambridge: MIT Press.
Cerf, Moran. 2011. "On Imagery and Projecting Thoughts." In Seeing with Eyes Closed, edited by Ivana Franke and Ida Momennejad, 50-55.
Cerf, Moran and Michael MacKay. 2011. "Studying Consciousness Using Direct Recording From Single Neurons in the Human Brain." In Research and Perspective in Neuroscience, edited by Stanislas Dehaene and Yves Christien, 133-146. Springer.
Cerf, Moran, Jonathan Harel, Alex Huth and Christof Koch. 2008. "Decoding What People See From Where They Look: Predicting Visual Stimuli From Scanpaths." In Lecture Notes in Artificial Intelligence, edited by R.G. Goebel, Wolfgang Wahlster, Yuzuru Tanaka, vol. 5395, 15-26.
Cerf, Moran, Jonathan Harel, Wolfgang Einhauser and Christof Koch. 2007. "Predicting Human Gaze Using Low-Level Saliency Combined With Face Detection." In Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems, vol. 21, Curran Associates, Inc.
Cerf, Moran. 2005. "What is it like to be Beethoven?." In Towards a Science of Consciousness, edited by Avshalom C. Elitzur, World Scientific Publishing Co.
Cerf, Moran and Brian Uzzi. "How humans plus machines will equal amazing advancements." The Entrepreneur.
Cerf, Moran. "Do Americans Think Corporations Have the Right to Religious Freedom?." Slate.
Cerf, Moran. "The real cyber security." Wired.
Cerf, Moran. "Using single-neuron recording in marketing: opportunities, challenges, and an application to fear enhancement in communication.".
Cerf, Moran, Ueli Rutishauser and Gabriel Kreiman. 2013. Atoms of Cognition. Probing single neurons in the human brain. MIT Press.
Cerf, Moran. 2014. Brainihack. How our brain is fooled and fools us. Simon & Schuster.
Cerf, Moran. 2014. Single Neuron Studies of the Human Brain: Probing Cognition. MIT Press.
. 2016. TiVo Segmentation Analytics. Case 5-414-753 (KEL932).

Print Teaching
Full-Time / Evening & Weekend MBA
Marketing Management (MKTG-430-0)
This course takes an analytical approach to the study of marketing problems of business firms and other types of organizations. Attention focuses on the influence of the marketplace and the marketing environment on marketing decision making; the determination of the organization's products, prices, channels and communication strategies; and the organization's system for planning and controlling its marketing effort.