What causes déjà vu? The quirky neuroscience behind the memory illusion - Deepstash

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Déjà Vu

Déjà Vu

Déjà vu, French for ‘already seen’, is a feeling of having experienced something already. A feeling of being familiar with the current scenario as if it has happened to us in the same way before. According to a study, about 60 percent of the population has experienced déjà vu.

What makes déjà vu unique is that there is a conflict between the sensation and the actual awareness, a disorienting feeling that one has been tricked.


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Déjà Vu According To Neuroscience

According to neuroscientists, déjà vu isn’t a memory error or a sign of an unhealthy mind. It happens as the frontal regions of the brain, which process billions of neurons, tries to correct an inaccurate memory, fact-checking the information it is receiving. This can happen once a month on average, but being stressed out, tired or fatigued may increase the chances of experiencing this feeling.

Dopamine, which is a mood-boosting neurotransmitter, plays a part in déjà vu, especially in people who experiment with dopaminergic drugs.


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Young People Get More Déjà Vus

According to extensive research, the younger population experiences more déjà vu, and as one gets older, the noticing of errors becomes less frequent. This is a natural part of ageing.


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Constant Déjà Vu

There are cases where people are persistently experiencing the feeling of Déjà Vu. The cause can be taking a mixture of medications that can have unpredictable side effects, as in some documented cases.


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Jamais Vu: The Opposite Of Déjà Vu

A lesser-known feeling is Jamais Vu or ‘never seen’. It is essentially failing to recognize or remember a situation that should be familiar to us. This is different from standard forgetting, like amnesia, but is a momentary lapse of awareness of the familiar.

What’s intriguing is that it has the same characteristics:

  1. It is a disorienting feeling.
  2. It happens more to young people.
  3. It is more likely to happen when one is tired.

An experiment to prompt the feeling of Jamais Vu involved writing a familiar word like apple or door, constantly on a piece of paper for a few minutes. 70 percent of the participants began to doubt the spelling or the authenticity of the word.


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