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Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience

April 2019, Vol. 31, No. 4, Pages 469-481
(doi: 10.1162/jocn_a_01356)
© 2018 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Dissociating Reward- and Attention-driven Biasing of Global Feature-based Selection in Human Visual Cortex
Article PDF (1.64 MB)
Objects that promise rewards are prioritized for visual selection. The way this prioritization shapes sensory processing in visual cortex, however, is debated. It has been suggested that rewards motivate stronger attentional focusing, resulting in a modulation of sensory selection in early visual cortex. An open question is whether those reward-driven modulations would be independent of similar modulations indexing the selection of attended features that are not associated with reward. Here, we use magnetoencephalography in human observers to investigate whether the modulations indexing global color-based selection in visual cortex are separable for target- and (monetary) reward-defining colors. To assess the underlying global color-based activity modulation, we compare the event-related magnetic field response elicited by a color probe in the unattended hemifield drawn either in the target color, the reward color, both colors, or a neutral task-irrelevant color. To test whether target and reward relevance trigger separable modulations, we manipulate attention demands on target selection while keeping reward-defining experimental parameters constant. Replicating previous observations, we find that reward and target relevance produce almost indistinguishable gain modulations in ventral extratriate cortex contralateral to the unattended color probe. Importantly, increasing attention demands on target discrimination increases the response to the target-defining color, whereas the response to the rewarded color remains largely unchanged. These observations indicate that, although task relevance and reward influence the very same feature-selective area in extrastriate visual cortex, the associated modulations are largely independent.