Reward processing in the value-driven attention network: reward signals tracking cue identity and location
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Through associative reward learning, arbitrary cues acquire the ability to automatically capture visual attention. Previous studies have examined the neural correlates of value-driven attentional orienting, revealing elevated activity within a network of brain regions encompassing the visual corticostriatal loop [caudate tail, lateral occipital complex (LOC) and early visual cortex] and intraparietal sulcus (IPS). Such attentional priority signals raise a broader question concerning how visual signals are combined with reward signals during learning to create a representation that is sensitive to the confluence of the two. This study examines reward signals during the cued reward training phase commonly used to generate value-driven attentional biases. High, compared with low, reward feedback preferentially activated the value-driven attention network, in addition to regions typically implicated in reward processing. Further examination of these reward signals within the visual system revealed information about the identity of the preceding cue in the caudate tail and LOC, and information about the location of the preceding cue in IPS, while early visual cortex represented both location and identity. The results reveal teaching signals within the value-driven attention network during associative reward learning, and further suggest functional specialization within different regions of this network during the acquisition of an integrated representation of stimulus value.
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