The attentional modulation of sensory information processing in the visual system is the result of top-down influences, which can cause a multiplicative modulation of the firing rate of sensory neurons in extrastriate visual cortex, an effect reminiscent of the bottom-up effect of changes in stimulus contrast. This similarity could simply reflect the multiplicity of both effects. But, here we show that in direction-selective neurons in monkey visual cortical area MT, stimulus and attentional effects share a nonlinearity. These neurons show higher response gain for both contrast and attentional changes for intermediate contrast stimuli and smaller gain for low- and high-contrast stimuli. This finding suggests a close relationship between the neural encoding of stimulus contrast and the modulating effect of the behavioral relevance of stimuli.