Table of contents:

What scientists think about the déjà vu effect
What scientists think about the déjà vu effect

Many of us were concerned with the phenomenon of déjà vu - the feeling when new events seemed to have happened sometime before. Maybe this "glitch in the matrix" is nothing more than a short circuit of the brain? Activation of false memories or illness? Mystic or simple solution to cognitive conflict? Understood by Ph.D. Sabrina Steerwalt.

Wait, it seems to me, or have I been here before? It seems that we were already standing here at this very place when you said these same words to me, but then, in the past? Haven't I already seen this particular cat passing by in this very corridor? Sometimes, when we experience a new event or find ourselves in a new place, we have an eerie feeling as if we have been here before. This is called "deja vu" from the French deja vu - "I've seen before." But what is actually "déja vu" and is there a scientific explanation for this phenomenon?

Deja Vu is like "glitch in the Matrix"

Some people think that déjà vu is a sign that you are recalling a past life experience. Just creepy!


Trinity, the heroine of the actress Carrie-Anne Moss in the Matrix trilogy, tells us (and the hero of the actor Keanu Reeves, Neo) that deja vu is nothing more than a "glitch in the matrix" - a simulation of reality with the help of which people remain in the dark, while the world was taken over by intelligent machines. This explanation is great for cyber-punk works, but it does not reveal the essence of the phenomenon from a scientific point of view.

It is precisely what so engulfs us in the very existence of déjà vu that is difficult to learn.

We perceive the sensation of déja vu as something mystical or even paranormal, as it is fleeting and, as a rule, happens unexpectedly. It is precisely what so engulfs us in the very existence of déjà vu that is difficult to learn. But scientists are trying to use tricks like hypnosis and virtual reality.

Deja vu can be a memory phenomenon

Scientists have tried to recreate the phenomenon of déjà vu in a laboratory setting. In 2006, researchers at the Leeds Memory Group created memories for hypnosis patients. Remembering was a simple fact - playing or watching a word printed in a specific color. Patients from different groups were then asked to forget or remember a memory that could later evoke a sense of déjà vu when faced with a game or word.

Other scientists have tried to reproduce déjà vu in virtual reality. One study found that participants experienced déjà vu when immersed in the virtual reality of a Sims game, with one scene specially crafted to be spatially mapped to another.

Our brains recognize the similarities between our current experiences and the experiences we have had in the past.

Such experiments led scientists to assume that déjà vu is a memory phenomenon. We are faced with a situation that is similar to an existing memory that we cannot reproduce in detail. In this way, our brain recognizes the similarities between our current experience and the experience we have had in the past. We still have the feeling that this has already happened, but we cannot say for sure when and where.

In addition to the general version, there are many other theories trying to explain why our memories can give such glitches. Some say that it is like a short circuit in the brain, due to which new incoming information goes directly to long-term memory, bypassing short-term memory.Others sin on the rhinal cortex, an area of ​​the brain that signals that something seems familiar, as if it somehow works without the backing of memories.

Another theory suggests that déjà vu is associated with false memories - those that feel like they are real but are not. This form of déjà vu is similar to the sensation of not feeling the difference between what actually happened and the dream. However, researchers began to abandon this idea.

One study used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to scan the brains of 21 patients when they experienced some kind of déjà vu that was replicated in a laboratory setting.

Notably, areas of the brain involved in memory activity, such as the hippocampus, were not involved, as if sensations were associated with false memories. In contrast, the researchers found that active areas of the brain were involved in decision making. They explain this result by the fact that déjà vu can be a consequence of our brain conducting a kind of conflict resolution. In other words, our brain checks our memories like a filing cabinet, looking for any conflict between what we think we have experienced and what actually happened to us.

Deja vu may be associated with the temporal lobe

The extreme manifestation of deja vu is a consequence of temporal lobe epilepsy, a chronic disease of the nervous system that manifests itself in the form of unprovoked seizures in the temporal lobe of the brain. They often take the form of focal seizures. The person does not experience an altered state of consciousness, but experiences abnormal sensations such as déjà vu. Some scholars believe that any experience of déjà vu is at least a minor version of this disorder.

Most likely this is not a gift of foresight

Sometimes déjà vu is seen as an opportunity to glimpse the future out of the corner of the eye, which definitely adds to the creepiness of this phenomenon. Some people who experience déjà vu report that not only have they experienced this moment, they can predict what will happen next.

People who have a certain premonition may not be more accurate at predicting the outcome than just pointing a finger at the sky.

Science does not support this. Researchers tested this and found that people with a certain feeling of foreboding may not be more accurate at predicting results than just pointing a finger at the sky.

Should you worry about déjà vu?

Should you worry about déjà vu? Until your experience with déjà vu is associated with any form of epilepsy, researchers see no reason to suspect any negative consequences. In addition, some scholars believe that déjà vu can actually be beneficial. If this is in fact the result of our brains analyzing memories and reorganizing anything that is incorrectly registered, then we can regard this eerie sensation as a sign that our memory is in good working order. This idea correlates with the fact that déjà vu is found primarily among young people between the ages of 15 and 25.

Whether it is good or bad for déjà vu, we should acknowledge that the phenomenon is fleeting. In the UK, scientists are studying a young man 20 years old with a diagnosis that has been identified as "chronic déjà vu". The patient regularly experiences the feeling that he is living life again (often for several minutes at a time) - a traumatic experience that he compares to the trap of Donnie Darko in the film of the same name. This is tough!

About the Author: Sabrina Steerwault is a Ph.D., earned her degrees in Astronomy and Astrophysics from Cornell University and is currently Professor of Physics at Western College.

Popular by topic