The bottom-up contribution to the allocation of exogenous attention is a saliency map. However, how the saliency map is distributed when multiple salient stimuli are presented simultaneously and how this distribution interacts with awareness remain unclear. These questions were addressed here using visible and invisible stimuli that consisting of two salient foregrounds: the high one served as the target and the low one served as the distractor, which did or did not interfere the target’ saliency, indicating a gradient or winner-take-all manner, respectively. By combining psychophysics, fMRI, and effective connectivity analysis, we found that the saliency map was distributed as a gradient or winner-take-all manner with and without awareness, respectively. Crucially, we further revealed that the gradient manner was derived by feedback from pIPS, whereas the winner-take-all manner was constructed in V1. Together, our findings indicate an awareness-dependent saliency map and reconcile previous, seemingly contradictory findings on the saliency map.
bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience