How motivation and reward learning modulate selective attention

Prog Brain Res. 2016;229:325-342. doi: 10.1016/bs.pbr.2016.06.004. Epub 2016 Jul 12.


Motivational stimuli such as rewards elicit adaptive responses and influence various cognitive functions. Notably, increasing evidence suggests that stimuli with particular motivational values can strongly shape perception and attention. These effects resemble both selective top-down and stimulus-driven attentional orienting, as they depend on internal states but arise without conscious will, yet they seem to reflect attentional systems that are functionally and anatomically distinct from those classically associated with frontoparietal cortical networks in the brain. Recent research in human and nonhuman primates has begun to reveal how reward can bias attentional selection, and where within the cognitive system the signals providing attentional priority are generated. This review aims at describing the different mechanisms sustaining motivational attention, their impact on different behavioral tasks, and current knowledge concerning the neural networks governing the integration of motivational influences on attentional behavior.

Keywords: Attentional selection; Dopamine systems; Motivation; Reward.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Attention / physiology*
  • Choice Behavior / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Motivation / physiology*
  • Reward*