Reward motivation increases univariate activity but has limited effect on coding of task-relevant information across the frontoparietal cortex

Sneha Shashidhara, Yaara Erez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Selection and integration of information based on current goals is fundamental for goal-directed behavior. Reward motivation has been shown to improve behavioral performance, yet the neural mechanisms that link motivation and control processes, and in particular its effect on context-dependent information processing, remain unclear. We used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in 24 human volunteers (13 females) to test whether reward motivation enhances the coding of task-relevant information across the frontoparietal cortex, as would be predicted based on previous experimental evidence and theoretical accounts. In a cued target detection task, participants detected whether an object from a cued visual category was present in a subsequent display. The combination of the cue and the object visual category determined the behavioral status of the objects. To manipulate reward motivation, half of all trials offered the possibility of a monetary reward. We observed an increase with reward in overall univariate activity across the frontoparietal control network when the cue and subsequent object were presented. Multivariate pattern analysis (MVPA) showed that behavioral status information for the objects was conveyed across the network. However, in contrast to our prediction, reward did not increase the discrimination between behavioral status conditions in the stimulus epoch of a trial when object information was processed depending on a current context. In the high-level general-object visual region, the lateral occipital complex, the representation of behavioral status was driven by visual differences and was not modulated by reward. Our study provides useful evidence for the limited effects of reward motivation on task-related neural representations and highlights the necessity to unravel the diverse forms and extent of these effects.

Original languageEnglish
Article number107981
StatePublished - 17 Sep 2021
Externally publishedYes

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© 2021 The Authors


  • Frontoparietal cortex
  • Functional magnetic resonance imaging
  • Multivoxel pattern analysis
  • Reward
  • Task representation


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