Reward-driven modulation of spatial attention in the human frontal eye-field
AUTHORS: Bourgeois A, Sterpenich V, Iannotti GR, Vuilleumier P
NeuroImage, 79(11): 1165-74, February 2022
Attentional selection and the decision of where to make an eye-movement are driven by various factors such as the representation of salience, task goal, and stimulus relevance, as well as expectations or predictions based on past experience. Brain systems implicated in these processes recruit cortico-subcortical areas including the Frontal Eye-Field (FEF), parietal cortex, or superior colliculus. How these areas interact to govern attention remains elusive. Priority maps of space have been observed in several brain regions, but the neural substrates where different sources of information are combined and integrated to guide attentional selection has not been elucidated. We investigated here the neural mechanisms subserving how reward cues influence the voluntary deployment of attention, in conditions where stimulus-driven capture and task-related goals compete for attention selection. Using fMRI in a visual search task in n = 23 participants, we found a selective modulation of FEF by the reward value of distractors during attentional shifts, particularly after high-predictive cueing to invalid locations. Reward information also modulated FEF connectivity to superior colliculus, striatum, and visual cortex. We conclude that FEF may occupy a central position within brain circuits integrating different sources of top-down biases for the generation of spatial saliency maps and guidance of selective attention.