Dynamic interplay between reward and voluntary attention determines stimulus processing in visual cortex

Ivan Grahek* (Corresponding Author), Antonio Schettino, Ernst H.W. Koster, Søren K. Andersen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
6 Downloads (Pure)


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 (SSVEPs) 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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2357–2371
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Cognitive Neuroscience
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2021

Bibliographical note

This work was supported by the Special Research Fund (BOF) of Ghent University [grant 617 #01D02415 awarded to IG; grant # BOF14/PDO/123 awarded to AS], the Concerted Research Action Grant of Ghent University [grant number BOF16/GOA/017 awarded to EHWK], and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council [BB/P002404/1 awarded to SKA]. The funding sources were not involved in the study design; collection, analysis, and interpretation of data; writing of the report; and decision to submit the article for publication.
We would like to thank Prof. Gilles Pourtois for his help with conceiving the study and for the very useful discussions of the results. Further, we thank Gilles for all of the materials he provided for this study. We would also like to thank Dr. Ladislas Nalborczyk for discussions about statistical analyses of the data, Prof. Ruth Krebs for her comments on a previous version of the manuscript, and Dr. Inez Greven for help with data collection

Data Availability Statement

Raw and preprocessed data, materials, analysis scripts, and additional materials are available at osf.io/kjds3/


  • voluntary attention
  • attentional control
  • reward
  • motivation
  • EEG
  • feature-based attention
  • steady-state visual evoked potential
  • frequency tagging
  • Bayesian multilevel modeling


Dive into the research topics of 'Dynamic interplay between reward and voluntary attention determines stimulus processing in visual cortex'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this