AANS Neurosurgeon | Volume 27, Number 3, 2018

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Researcher reveals new cell type in human brain that plays crucial role in visual search

Every day, people are asked to find something – a familiar face in a crowd, a child in the park, a particular house on a street. While researchers have long-since known that the ability to effectively search and detect goal-relevant targets is controlled by top-down signals from the brain’s frontal area, a researcher from West Virginia University has found evidence that the human medial temporal lobe – or MTL – also plays an essential role in this process.

Shuo Wang, assistant professor of chemical and biomedical engineering, has found that the MTL contains a strikingly functional type of cell never described before in humans: target cells.

Wang and his collaborators – Ueli Rutishauser and Adam Mamelak from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and Ralph Adolphs from California Institute of Technology – took the very rare opportunity to record single neurons from epilepsy patients, who were undergoing seizure monitoring at Cedars-Sinai. They performed concurrent recordings of eye movements and single neurons in the MTL and medial frontal cortex – or MFC – in human neurosurgical patients performing a memory-guided visual search task.

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