Déjà Vu: Is It A Look At Past Memories Or Something Else?

A research team from the University of St. Andrews, in the U.K., may have finally revealed answers about déjà vu. Is it a look at past memories or something else? New Scientist explains.

During the study conducted by Akira O’Connor and his team, they have revealed what is going on in the brain during a period of déjà vu. Once they were able to trigger a déjà vu, they used an MRI to scan the brain. What they found was very interesting, but how were they able to trigger déjà vu?

Akira and his team used 21 volunteers to trigger false memories by telling them a list of words that were related, but weren’t connected, such as bed, pillow, sheets, dreams, etc. In reality, the volunteers are naturally thinking of “sleep,” which is the false memory.

After the volunteers heard the list of words, the team later quizzed them and asked if they heard any words that started with “s,” in which they all replied that they did not. However, even though the volunteers said they did not hear a word that started with “s,” they reported the feeling of déjà vu.

Is deja vu a recollection of real memories or familiarity
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During the study, they triggered false memories using the technique mentioned above and completed an MRI to reveal what the brain is doing during déjà vu. What they found out was that the part of the brain that appeared very active during déjà vu was the brain’s frontal regions, which is responsible for decision-making.

According to O’Connor, he believes that during déjà vu, the brain is looking for a memory, but instead of finding it, the brain is conflicted with what was thought versus what had actually happened.

Stefan Kohler, a psychology professor from University of Western Ontario, believes that déjà vu does, indeed, signal a conflict in the brain.

“It suggests there may be some conflict resolution going on in the brain during déjà vu.”

Although the brain signals conflict during déjà vu, it reveals that the brain is working well and is healthy. Déjà vu is more common in young people than old, and the study makes it more understandable as to why this is the case, O’Connor explains. When you age, your memory deteriorates, thus making older people less likely to experience déjà vu.

“It may be that the general checking system is in decline, that you’re less likely to spot memory mistakes.”

Another similar study administered by Anne M. Cleary describes her findings about déjà vu. During déjà vu, a person believes that he or she is experiencing something that has already happened; however, during déjà vu, the brain is fluctuating between familiarity and recollection.

Anne uses pictures, words, and even shapes to generate false memories in order to study déjà vu.

“Many parallels between explanations of déjà vu and theories of human recognition memory exist. Theories of familiarity-based recognition and the laboratory methods used to study it may be especially useful for elucidating the processes underlying déjà vu experiences.”

According to Psychology Today, nearly 60-70 percent of people experience déjà vu at some point in their lives, but most of the time it occurs in the late-teens to late-20s. Psychiatrists sometimes argue that déjà vu is a brain mismatch causing a person to believe that something they experienced has happened in the past.

Is deja vu proof of reincarnation and past memories, or just a brain conflict suggesting familiarity
[Image by julijacernjaka/AP Images]

Yet there are parapsychologists who believe that déjà vu is related to an experience in the past, or even a past-life. Although past lives are very debatable since they can’t be proven or investigated, algorithmic reincarnation is the most consistent to predicting past memories from one life to the next. Sharma Anurag shares his theory about algorithmic reincarnation.

Sharma’s theory is based on the popular believe that reincarnation is real, and who are we to doubt anyone’s belief? Perhaps we really have lived multiple lives and that is why we experience déjà vu. Or maybe déjà vu is simply a conflict in our brain distinguishing a real memory and a familiar memory.

[Image via Shutterstock]