Abstract

Reward enhances stimulus processing in the visual cortex, but the mechanisms through which this effect occurs remain unclear. Reward prospect can both increase the deployment of voluntary attention and increase the salience of previously neutral stimuli. In this study, we orthogonally manipulated reward and voluntary attention while human participants performed a global motion detection task. We recorded steady-state visual evoked potentials to simultaneously measure the processing of attended and unattended stimuli linked to different reward probabilities, as they compete for attentional resources. The processing of the high rewarded feature was enhanced independently of voluntary attention, but this gain diminished once rewards were no longer available. Neither the voluntary attention nor the salience account alone can fully explain these results. Instead, we propose how these two accounts can be integrated to allow for the flexible balance between reward-driven increase in salience and voluntary attention.

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Author notes

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These authors contributed equally to the study.