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Franco Pestilli, Nayema Khan, Sam Ling, Vincent Ferrera; Estimates of human subjective utility from early visual responses. Journal of Vision 2015;15(12):456. doi: 10.1167/15.12.456.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
In motivated behavior, attention can be directed towards objects or locations associated with economic gains or losses. We investigated whether information about potential gains and losses affects visual sensitivity and cortical activity (BOLD fMRI) in a manner akin to that of spatial attention. While in the scanner, subjects performed a contrast discrimination task at one of four possible locations. On half of the trials, subjects expected to earn monetary rewards as a result of correct responses – no loss possible. On the other half of the trials, subjects expected to lose accrued rewards upon incorrect response – no gain possible. We presented cues before trial onset that were 100% informative about the potential gains or losses at each location, but provided no information about the location of the stimulus to be discriminated. We measured contrast-discrimination thresholds concurrently with fMRI responses in early visual cortex (V1-hV4) to stimuli that predicted for high- or low-gains, and high- or low-losses. We used visuocortical responses to estimate subjective utility associated with expected gains and losses. Discrimination sensitivity and visuocortical activity was higher at locations of high-gain and -loss stimuli. Discrimination thresholds and cortical activity were similar for gain and loss trials. But estimating subjective utility associated brain responses to gains and losses showed that activity for losses increased twice as fast as that for gains. We conclude that maximizing gains and minimizing losses generates effects closely resembling the spatial allocation of attention. These findings support the predictions of modern economic theories in which prospective losses outweigh gains.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2015
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