Ph.D. Cognitive Neuroscience, 2015 – Dartmouth College
B.S. Psychology, 2008 – University of New Mexico
Rob Chavez joined the faculty at the University of Oregon as an Assistant Professor of Psychology in 2017. He is interested in how our brains build representations of our sense of self and the social environment and how we use these representations to guide our behavior in the real world. He is also interested in predictive modeling and data science methods for digital social science.
Emotion and motivation influence behavior: people tend to pursue activities that give them pleasure and avoid activities that cause them pain. I am interested in understanding how the brain learns and predicts this motivational value. The “self” is just one prominent aspect of our world that carries motivational value. The brain theoretically defaults to assigning a positive value to the self, and in turn, people are motivated to approach and learn about themselves (know thyself). However, if the brain assigns a negative value to the self, this in theory should motivate self-avoidance behavior, which is ultimately contradictory. How does the brain represent and resolve this contradiction when it arises, and how might this contradiction influence other important motivational processes?
One of the most remarkable qualities of human kind is our ability to navigate our immensely complex social environments. Our brain has evolved the capacity to build a rich model of the self which in turn has become an essential tool that we use to understand our social situations and our place in society. I wish to understand how this concept of self is built and how it is represented and encoded in the distributed networks of the brain. I want to know how these distributed patterns of self change from individual to individual and how they differ across cultures. Through the use of various multimodal imaging methods and multivariate machine learning techniques, I hope to probe the depths of these various processes and uncover the structure that underlies their ultimate purpose and function.
Moriah Stendel has an interdisciplinary academic background, having received a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology & Art History and a Master of Science in Psychiatry. Her interests lie in the vast possibilities of human phenomenological experiences and their complex relation to the brain. Accordingly, Moriah’s research has explored consciousness, culture, hypnosis, and selfhood. During her doctoral work, she plans to focus her research on the entwined relationship between self, brain, and psychopathology.
I am interested in how structure relates to function in the brain and how structural and functional networks mutually constrain one another. The pluripotency and degeneracy of brain networks render the relations between cognitive functions and neural structures as many-to-many. I aim to investigate these relations using predictive models on large fMRI and DTI datasets.
Undergraduate research assistants are recruited on an ongoing basis. Given the multidisciplinary nature of our work, we welcome students from all fields of study including but not limited to Psychology, Computer & Information Science, Mathematics, and Biology. If you are interested in joining the lab as an RA, please email Professor Chavez with inquires and specific information about your interests in joining us.