Jeongmi Lee and Sarah Shomstein
J. Neurosci. 2013;33 10625-10633
Estimating reward contingencies and allocating attentional resources to a subset of relevant information are the most important contributors to increasing adaptability of an organism. Although recent evidence suggests that reward- and attention-based guidance recruits overlapping cortical regions and has similar effects on sensory responses, the exact nature of the relationship between the two remains elusive. Here, using event-related fMRI on human participants, we contrasted the effects of reward on space- and object-based selection in the same experimental setting. Reward was either distributed randomly or biased a particular object. Behavioral and neuroimaging results show that space- and object-based attention is influenced by reward differentially. Space-based attentional allocation is mandatory, integrating reward information over time, whereas object-based attentional allocation is a default setting that is completely replaced by the reward signal. Nonadditivity of the effects of reward and object-based attention was observed consistently at multiple levels of analysis in early visual areas as well as in control regions. These results provide strong evidence that space- and object-based allocation are two independent attentional mechanisms, and suggest that reward serves to constrain attentional selection.