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Neuroscientists identify brain region that holds objects in memory until they are spotted.

Imagine you are looking for your wallet on a cluttered desk. As you scan the area, you hold in your mind a mental picture of what your wallet looks like.

MIT neuroscientists have now identified a brain region that stores this type of visual representation during a search. The researchers also found that this region sends signals to the parts of the brain that control eye movements, telling individuals where to look next.

This region, known as the ventral pre-arcuate (VPA), is critical for what the researchers call “feature attention,” which allows the brain to seek objects based on their specific properties. Most previous studies of how the brain pays attention have investigated a different type of attention known as spatial attention — that is, what happens when the brain focuses on a certain location.

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