Distinct representations for shifts of spatial attention and changes of reward contingencies in the human brain.


Success in a dynamically changing world requires both rapid shifts of attention to the location of important objects and the detection of changes in motivational contingencies that may alter future behavior. Here we addressed the relationship between these two processes by measuring the blood-oxygenation-level-dependent (BOLD) signal during a visual search task in which the location and the color of a salient cue respectively indicated where a rewarded target would appear and the monetary gain (large or small) associated with its detection. While cues that either shifted or maintained attention were presented every 4 to 8 sec, the reward magnitude indicated by the cue changed roughly every 30 sec, allowing us to distinguish a change in expected reward magnitude from a maintained state of expected reward magnitude. Posterior cingulate cortex was modulated by cues signaling an increase in expected reward magnitude, but not by cues for shifting versus maintaining spatial attention. Dorsal fronto-parietal regions in precuneus and frontal eye field (FEF) also showed increased BOLD activity for changes in expected reward magnitude from low to high, but in addition showed large independent modulations for shifting versus maintaining attention. In particular, the differential activation for shifting versus maintaining attention was not affected by expected reward magnitude. These results indicate that BOLD activations for shifts of attention and increases in expected reward magnitude are largely separate. Finally, visual cortex showed sustained spatially selective signals that were significantly enhanced when greater reward magnitude was expected, but this reward-related modulation was not observed in spatially selective regions of dorsal fronto-parietal cortex.

DOI: 10.1016/j.cortex.2012.03.022

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@article{Tosoni2013DistinctRF, title={Distinct representations for shifts of spatial attention and changes of reward contingencies in the human brain.}, author={Annalisa Tosoni and Gordon L. Shulman and Anna L W Pope and Mark P. McAvoy and Maurizio Corbetta}, journal={Cortex; a journal devoted to the study of the nervous system and behavior}, year={2013}, volume={49 6}, pages={1733-49} }