Rebecca (Beck) Todd is an Associate Professor in the UBC Department of Psychology and a Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research Fellow. Cognitive Neuroscience is her second career – she has a Master’s degree in Dance from UCLA and worked as a contemporary choreographer and dance writer for a number of years. She subsequently received a PhD in Developmental Science and Neuroscience from University of Toronto, and post-doctoral training in cognitive neuroscience at the Rotman Research Institute and University of Toronto. Her research program focuses on neurocognitive processes underlying the interaction between human emotion and cognition in health and in pathology. It employs brain imaging methods and laboratory experiments to investigate how we process the affective salience, or emotional/motivational importance, of objects and events around us, and how such affective salience influences what we see, how we learn, and what we remember. It also focuses on individual differences in how we filter the world so that we are more likely to perceive specific categories of salient event (e.g., threatening vs. rewarding), and how such filters develop over time and influence behaviour, with major consequences for emotional health and wellbeing.
Emotion, and our history of emotional associations with things in the world, guide our attention, what we learn, and what we remember as well as the decisions we make. My research in cognitive neuroscience focuses on how emotional experience comes to guide these cognitive processes as we interact with the world, and the brain systems that are involved, in relatively healthy populations with those with mood disorders. Here I am interested in how design of technology can be optimized by taking into account the ways in which such affect-biased cognition drives behaviour in general, and how it may differ depending on individual experience.