Brandon Forys

PhD Student

University of British Columbia, 2020-2022, M.A.
University of British Columbia, 2016-2020B.A.Honours


I investigate the neural correlates and behavioural mechanisms that underpin how people apply cognitive and physical effort to obtain rewards and avoid unpleasant situations. I am also interested in computationally modelling biases and affective states that contribute to evaluations of effort cost, with the aim of better understanding the roles that differing cognitive mechanisms play in people’s perception of effort. Beyond my research, I also help organize and co-teach an annual fMRI brain camp for undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty from UBC and SFU, and have helped organize the annual PsychFest conference for UBC Psychology graduate students.

Research Interests

Sounds in Context
What makes a sound unpleasant? When we’re bothered by something we hear, are we averse to the sound’s acoustic content (e.g. screeching noises or a loud volume) – or does the sound bring to mind an unpleasant past experience? And what role does a sound’s context play in our perception of it being aversive? These are some of the questions that I am currently exploring in the BAR Lab through tasks that ask participants to rate – and describe their ratings of – sounds on measures of valence and arousal.
Act, Avoid, and Approach
We often have to put in effort to avoid things that bother us, or to get things that we want. However, mood disorders such as depression and anxiety can shift how much we are willing and able to deploy this effort, in concert with changes in how we value avoiding aversive outcomes or approaching pleasant ones. With my co-supervisor Dr. Rebecca Todd, I investigate the factors that drive how people deploy physical and cognitive effort to avoid unpleasant outcomes or obtain rewards, and how participants’ levels of depressive and anxiety symptoms interact with their accuracy and effort deployment in a series of intermixed go/no-go and change detection tasks. Furthermore, I seek to identify and explore the cognitive processes that influence effort deployment in these tasks through mathematical and reinforcement learning models.


Forys, B. J., Qi, E., Todd, R. M., & Kingstone, A. (2024). Hear it here: Built environments predict ratings and descriptions of ambiguous sounds. OSF

Forys, B. J., Winstanley, C. A., Kingstone, A., & Todd, R. M. (2024). Short-term memory capacity predicts willingness to expend cognitive effort for reward. eNeuro, 11(7).

Kryklywy, J. H., Forys, B. J., Vieira, J. B., Quinlan, D. J., Culham, J. C., & Mitchell, D. G. V. (2023). Dissociating representation of affect and motion in visual cortices. Cognitive, Affective, & Behavioural Neuroscience, 1-24.

Forys, B. J., Tomm, R. J., Stamboliyska, D., Terpstra, A. R., Clark, L., Chakrabarty, T., Floresco, S. B., & Todd, R. M. (2023). Gender impacts the relationship between mood disorder symptoms and effortful avoidance performance. eNeuro, 10(2).

Ehlers, M. R., Kryklywy, J. H., Beukers, A. O., Moore, S. R., Forys, B. J., Anderson, A. K., & Todd, R. M. (2021). Reactivation of hedonic but not sensory representations in human emotional learning. BioRxiv

Xiao, D., Forys, B. J., Vanni, M. P., & Murphy, T. H. (2021). MesoNet: automated scaling and segmentation of mouse mesoscale cortical maps using machine learning. Nature Communications, 12(1), 5992.

Hamden, J.E., Salehzadeh, M., Gray, K. M., Forys, B. J., & Soma, K. K. (2021). Isoflurane stress induces glucocorticoid production in mouse lymphoid organs. Journal of Endocrinology, 251(2), 137-148.

Hamden, J. E., Gray, K., Saledzadeh, M., Kachkovski, G. K., Forys, B. J., Ma, C., Austin, S., Soma, K. K. (2021). Steroid profiling of glucocorticoids in microdissected mouse brain across development. Developmental Neurobiology, 81(2), 189-206.

Forys, B. J., Xiao, D., Gupta, P., & Murphy, T. H. (2020). Real-time selective markerless tracking of forepaws of head-fixed mice using deep neural networks. eNeuro, 7(3).


  • Faculty of Arts Graduate Award, UBC, 2023
  • Stanley Coren Prize in Psychology, UBC, 2023
  • Four Year Fellowships (4YF) For PhD Students, UBC, 2022-2026
  • President’s Academic Excellence Initiative PhD Award, UBC, 2022-2026
  • Canada Graduate Scholarship – Doctoral, NSERC, 2022-2025
  • Canada Graduate Scholarship – Master’s, NSERC, 2020-2022
  • NSERC Undergraduate Student Research Award, NSERC/UBC (2020)
  • Trek Excellence Scholarship for Continuing Students, UBC (2019)
  • ARTA Scholarship, Alberta Retired Teachers’ Association (2019)
  • Wesbrook Scholar, UBC (2019)
  • HSBC Emerging Leader Scholarship, UBC (2019)
  • Suedfeld Scholar Award, UBC Psi Chi (2019)
  • PSYC 217 Poster Award, 1st Place, UBC Psychology (2018)
  • Student Scholarship in Arts, UBC Faculty of Arts (2018)
  • Trek Excellence Scholarship for Continuing Students, UBC (2017)
  • Stephen Straker Arts One Prize, UBC Arts One Program (2017)
  • University of BC Sopron Memorial Scholarship, UBC (2016)
  • Dean’s List, UBC Faculty of Arts (2016-17, 2017-18, 2018-19, 2019-20)