Theories on Deja Vu

Deja Vu: Real Science And

Déjà-vu is most likely an erroneous assignment of familiarity to experience.

There are a number of things that can go wrong neurologically that relate to the perception of familiarity. For example, in Capgras Syndrome, caused by a brain lesion (a small stroke), certain people and objects that should be familiar appear foreign. One woman looked at her purse and said "that's not my purse! But it looks just like my purse. Someone must have replaced it with an exact duplicate to play a trick on me." Another woman would periodically not recognize her sister and thought she was replaced with an evil twin.

Déjà-vu is a perceptual mistake in which a situation has the feeling of familiarity despite there being no actual referent in the past. Incidence of déjà-vu is highest when people are in their 20s and almost disappears after age 50. [1] Interestingly, when people have an epileptic seizure, it is often preceded by a déjà-vu experience (part of the preseizure aura).
A number of theories for déjà-vu have been proposed. In one theory, the timing of information distribution in the brain is momentarily delayed or out of phase, causing the present to be compared to itself as though it were the past. Other theories suggest an anomaly in either attentional or emotional processing. Some recent work points to anomalous activity in the hippocampus, a part of the brain specialized for autobiographical "episodic" memory. See [1] for a review of several theories.

Since it is not currently feasible to reproduce déjà-vu under controlled circumstances or in animals, it will probably be a long time before a definitive explanation emerges.

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