Déjà vu

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Déjà vu (/ˌdʒɑː ˈv, - ˈvj/ (About this sound listen);[1][2] French pronunciation: [deʒa vy] (About this sound listen)) is the feeling that the situation currently being experienced has already been experienced in the past.[3][4][5][6] Déjà vu is a feeling of familiarity, and déjà vécu (the feeling of having "already lived through" something) is a feeling of recollection.[7][8] Scientific approaches reject the explanation of déjà vu as "precognition" or "prophecy", but rather explain it as an anomaly of memory, which creates a distinct impression that an experience is "being recalled".[9][10] This explanation is supported by the fact that the sense of "recollection" at the time is strong in most cases, but the circumstances of the "previous" experience (when, where, and how the earlier experience occurred) are uncertain or believed to be impossible. Two types of déjà vu are suggested to exist: the pathological type of déjà vu usually associated with epilepsy and the non-pathological which is a characteristic of healthy people and psychological phenomena.[11][12][13][14]

A 2004 review claimed that approximately two-thirds of the population have had déjà vu experiences.[15] Other studies confirm that déjà vu is a common experience in healthy individuals, with between 31% and 96% of individuals reporting it. Déjà vu experiences that are unusually prolonged or frequent, or in association with other symptoms such as hallucinations, may be an indicator of neurological or psychiatric illness.[16]

The phrase comes from French, literally meaning "already seen".

Links with disorders[edit]

Early researchers tried to establish a link between déjà vu and mental disorders such as anxiety, dissociative identity disorder and schizophrenia but failed to find correlations of any diagnostic value.[17] There does not seem to be a special association between déjà vu and schizophrenia.[18][19]

The strongest pathological association of déjà vu is with temporal lobe epilepsy.[20][21][22][23][24][25] This correlation has led some researchers to speculate that the experience of déjà vu is possibly a neurological anomaly related to improper electrical discharge in the brain, creating a strong sensation that an event or experience currently being experienced has already been experienced in the past. As most people suffer a mild (i.e. non-pathological) epileptic episode regularly (e.g. a hypnagogic jerk, the sudden "jolt" that frequently, but not always, occurs just prior to falling asleep), it is conjectured that a similar (mild) neurological aberration occurs in the experience of déjà vu, resulting in an erroneous sensation of memory. Scientists have even looked into genetics when considering déjà vu. Although there is not currently a gene associated with déjà vu, the LGII gene on chromosome 10 is being studied for a possible link. Certain forms of the gene are associated with a mild form of epilepsy and, though by no means a certainty, déjà vu, along with jamais vu, occurs often enough during seizures (such as simple partial seizures) that researchers have reason to suspect a link.[26]

A 2008 study found that déjà vu experiences are unlikely to be pathological dissociative experiences.[27]


Certain drugs increase the chances of déjà vu occurring in the user, resulting in a strong sensation that an event or experience currently being experienced has already been experienced in the past. Some pharmaceutical drugs, when taken together, have also been implicated in the cause of déjà vu. Taiminen and Jääskeläinen (2001)[28] reported the case of an otherwise healthy male who started experiencing intense and recurrent sensations of déjà vu upon taking the drugs amantadine and phenylpropanolamine together to relieve flu symptoms. He found the experience so interesting that he completed the full course of his treatment and reported it to the psychologists to write up as a case study. Because of the dopaminergic action of the drugs and previous findings from electrode stimulation of the brain (e.g. Bancaud, Brunet-Bourgin, Chauvel, & Halgren, 1994),[29] Taiminen and Jääskeläinen speculate that déjà vu occurs as a result of hyperdopaminergic action in the mesial temporal areas of the brain.


Memory-based explanation[edit]

Research has associated déjà vu experiences with good memory functions.[30]

The similarity between a déjà-vu-eliciting stimulus and an existing, or non-existing but different, memory trace may lead to the sensation that an event or experience currently being experienced has already been experienced in the past.[17][31] Thus, encountering something that evokes the implicit associations of an experience or sensation that cannot be remembered may lead to déjà vu.

In an effort to reproduce the sensation experimentally, Banister and Zangwill (1941)[32][33] used hypnosis to give participants posthypnotic amnesia for material they had already seen. When this was later re-encountered, the restricted activation caused thereafter by the posthypnotic amnesia resulted in 3 of the 10 participants reporting what the authors termed "paramnesias".

Memory-based explanations may lead to the development of a number of non-invasive experimental methods by which a long sought-after analogue of déjà vu can be reliably produced that would allow it to be tested under well-controlled experimental conditions. Cleary suggests that déjà vu may be a form of familiarity-based recognition (recognition that is based on a feeling that an event or experience currently being experienced has already been experienced in the past) and that laboratory methods of probing familiarity-based recognition hold promise for probing déjà vu in laboratory settings.[31]

A 2012 study that used virtual reality technology to study reported déjà vu experiences supported this idea. This virtual reality investigation suggested that similarity between a new scene's spatial layout and the layout of a previously experienced scene in memory (but which fails to be recalled) may contribute to the déjà vu experience.[34][34] When the previously experienced scene fails to come to mind in response to viewing the new scene, that previously experienced scene in memory can still exert an effect—that effect may be a feeling of familiarity with the new scene that is subjectively experienced as a feeling that an event or experience currently being experienced has already been experienced in the past, or of having been there before despite knowing otherwise.

Another possible explanation for the phenomenon of déjà vu is the occurrence of "cryptomnesia", which is where information learned is forgotten but nevertheless stored in the brain, and similar occurrences invoke the contained knowledge, leading to a feeling of familiarity because the event or experience being experienced has already been experienced in the past, known as "déjà vu". Some experts suggest that memory is a process of reconstruction, rather than a recall of fixed, established events. This reconstruction comes from stored components, involving elaborations, distortions, and omissions. Each successive recall of an event is merely a recall of the last reconstruction. The proposed sense of recognition (déjà vu) involves achieving a good "match" between the present experience and our stored data. This reconstruction, however, may now differ so much from the original event that we "know" we have never experienced it before, even though it seems similar.[35]

In 1963, Robert Efron of Boston's Veterans Hospital proposed that déjà vu is caused by dual neurological processing caused by delayed signals. Efron found that the brain's sorting of incoming signals is done in the temporal lobe of the brain's left hemisphere. However, signals enter the temporal lobe twice before processing, once from each hemisphere of the brain, normally with a slight delay of milliseconds between them. Efron proposed that if the two signals were occasionally not synchronized properly, then they would be processed as two separate experiences, with the second seeming to be a re-living of the first.[36][37]

Dream-based explanation[edit]

One theory of déjà vu attributes the feeling of having previously seen or experienced something that is currently being seen or experienced to that of having dreamt about a similar situation or place and then forgetting about it until one seems to be mysteriously reminded of the situation or the place while awake.[38] The spontaneity of these types of déjà vu "moments" can catch many people off-guard, especially when they get the sensation from visiting a specific place they have never been to before, to the point where they are in a temporary state of shock and disbelief.

Related terms[edit]

Jamais vu[edit]

Jamais vu (from French, meaning "never seen") is a term in psychology which is used to describe any familiar situation which is not recognized by the observer.

Often described as the opposite of déjà vu, jamais vu involves a sense of eeriness and the observer's impression of seeing the situation for the first time, despite rationally knowing that he or she has been in the situation before. Jamais vu is more commonly explained as when a person momentarily does not recognize a word, person, or place that they already know. Jamais vu is sometimes associated with certain types of aphasia, amnesia, and epilepsy.

Theoretically, a jamais vu feeling in a sufferer of a delirious disorder or intoxication could result in a delirious explanation of it, such as in the Capgras delusion, in which the patient takes a known person for a false double or impostor.[39] If the impostor is himself, the clinical setting would be the same as the one described as depersonalisation, hence jamais vus of oneself or of the very "reality of reality", are termed depersonalisation (or surreality) feelings.

The feeling has been evoked through semantic satiation. Chris Moulin of the University of Leeds asked 95 volunteers to write the word "door" 30 times in 60 seconds. 68 percent of the subjects reported symptoms of jamais vu, with some beginning to doubt that "door" was a real word.[39]

The experience has also been named "vuja de" and "véjà du".[40][41]

Presque vu[edit]

Presque vu (French pronunciation: ​[pʁɛsk vy], from French, meaning "almost seen") is the intense feeling of being on the very brink of a powerful epiphany, insight, or revelation, without actually achieving the revelation. The feeling is often therefore associated with a frustrating, tantalizing sense of incompleteness or near-completeness.[42]

Déjà rêvé[edit]

Déjà rêvé (from French, meaning "already dreamed") is the feeling of having already dreamed something that you are now experiencing.[43]

Déjà entendu[edit]

Déjà entendu, (literally "already heard") is the experience of feeling sure about having already heard something, even though the exact details are uncertain or were perhaps imagined.[44][45]

See also[edit]


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  20. ^ Neurology Channel
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  36. ^ Robert, Efron. "TEMPORAL PERCEPTION, APHASIA AND DÉJÀ VU". Brain. 86: 403–424. doi:10.1093/brain/86.3.403. 
  37. ^ How déjà vu works by Lee Ann Obringer - How Stuff Works
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  39. ^ a b Ahuja, Anjana (2006-07-24). "Doctor, I've got this little lump on my arm . . . Relax, that tells me everything". London: Times Online. Retrieved 2010-05-01. 
  40. ^ "The power of "Vuja De"". 2013-07-03. Retrieved 2016-04-11. something else that you’ve done a hundred times before—and you suddenly feel as if you’re experiencing something completely new. This is vuja de, 
  41. ^ "Adam Grant TED Talk 2016 (HD): The surprising habits of original thinkers" (published 2016-04-03). February 2016. Retrieved 2016-04-11. Véjà du is when you look at something you've seen many times before and all of a sudden see it with fresh eyes  position mm:ss 11:12
  42. ^ Blom, Jan Dirk (2009). A Dictionary of Hallucinations. Springer Science & Business Media. p. 422.
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  45. ^ Mental Status Examination Rapid Record Form

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