Distinct neural responses to conscious versus unconscious monetary reward cues
Number of pages
SourceHuman Brain Mapping, 35, 11, (2014), pp. 5578-5586
Article / Letter to editor
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SW OZ BSI AO
Human Brain Mapping
SubjectWork, Health and Performance
Human reward pursuit is often assumed to involve conscious processing of reward information. However, recent research revealed that reward cues enhance cognitive performance even when perceived without awareness. Building on this discovery, the present functional MRI study tested two hypotheses using a rewarded mental-rotation task. First, we examined whether subliminal rewards engage the ventral striatum (VS), an area implicated in reward anticipation. Second, we examined differences in neural responses to supraliminal versus subliminal rewards. Results indicated that supraliminal, but not subliminal, high-value reward cues engaged brain areas involved in reward processing (VS) and task performance (supplementary motor area, motor cortex, and superior temporal gyrus). This pattern of findings is striking given that subliminal rewards improved performance to the same extent as supraliminal rewards. So, the neural substrates of conscious versus unconscious reward pursuit are vastly differentbut despite their differences, conscious and unconscious reward pursuit may still produce the same behavioral outcomes.
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