D√©j√† vu: Overdrawn at the memory bank

Déjà vu is one of the most fascinating of experiences and, until recently, was thought of as an interesting anomaly but virtually impossible to study scientifically.

This has recently begun to change. Psychologist Alan Brown is one of a number of scientists who have begun making considerable headway in researching this curious but fleeting state.

In Brown’s recent book (The Deja Vu Experience; ISBN 1841690759) he notes some interesting facts gleaned from research in this area, for example:

About two thirds of people experience it. It is more likely to occur indoors, while relaxing and in the company of friends. It occurs more often in the afternoon or evening, and towards the end of the week. It is more common in those who travel and remember their dreams. It is less common in people with conservative politics and fundamental religiosity. It decreases with age.

Exactly why the experience is linked to these things is not altogether clear, although research has made some progress in understanding which brain areas might be involved.

One clue has been from temporal lobe epilepsy, in which people can have intense feelings of d√©j√† vu, either as the main part of the seizure, or as a pre-seizure experience (called an ‘aura’). These studies have suggested that an area of the brain called the hippocampus and nearby area known as the parahippocampal gyrus (both strongly linked to the temporal lobes) are a likely source.

These areas are strong candidates for the source of déjà vu, as they have also been identified as involved in recognition and producing feelings of familiarity by previous research into memory function in healthy volunteers.

Link to excellent article on the science of déjà vu from The Chronical.
Link to NYT article on déjà vu.
Link to transcript of ABC Radio National programme on déjà vu.
Link to list of different types of déjà vu.

3 Comments

  1. ArtFunk
    Posted January 10, 2007 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    Good article about Alan Browne’s work. Those who have read it (the book and/or your blog) may be willing to fill out a questionnaire about d√©j√† vu I have put up on the Internet. The URL is

    http://silenroc.com/dejavu

  2. mareea
    Posted September 6, 2008 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

    I’m 23 years old and been having d√©j√† vu 24/7 for over a year now. I know it sounds ridiculous, but it is sadly very true. I’ve tried finding out information to help me cope with this situation and sought out help for my “condition”, but have been very unsuccessful.
    This phenomenon (or whatever we can call it) has affected my life tremendously to the point where things seem pointless and trivial. I’m sure science can explain many things in relation to d√©j√† vu, but honestly I feel it is something that goes beyond our “normal” understanding and cannot easily be explained through science, since science leaves out what it cannot demonstrate with physical proof.
    I’ve gotten several MRI’s and EEG’s done to try and figure out what’s wrong and if in fact my experience of constant d√©j√† vu is related to some kind of brain damage. I’ve also spoken to psychiatrists and visited neurologists who can only tell me my situation is interesting, intriguing, and unexplainable.
    I don’t know what to do about my situation, but continue to seek out help and talk about it with those who will listen.

  3. mareea
    Posted September 6, 2008 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

    I’m 23 years old and been having d√©j√† vu 24/7 for over a year now. I know it sounds ridiculous, but it is sadly very true. I’ve tried finding out information to help me cope with this situation and sought out help for my “condition”, but have been very unsuccessful. This phenomenon (or whatever we can call it) has affected my life tremendously to the point where things seem pointless and trivial. I’m sure science can explain many things in relation to d√©j√† vu, but honestly I feel it is something that goes beyond our “normal” understanding and cannot easily be explained through science, since science leaves out what it cannot demonstrate with physical proof. I’ve gotten several MRI’s and EEG’s done to try and figure out what’s wrong and if in fact my experience of constant d√©j√† vu is related to some kind of brain damage. I’ve also spoken to psychiatrists and visited neurologists who can only tell me my situation is interesting, intriguing, and unexplainable. I don’t know what to do about my situation, but continue to seek out help and talk about it with those who will listen.


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