What is deja vu?
Feel like you have read this somewhere before? The haunting familiarity caused by deja vu is a common experience. In the past, people used to think that deja vu was caused by false memories created by the brain. A new study conducted by Akira O’Connor at the University of St Andrews, UK, provides a more accurate explanation. MRI scans of the studied subjects reveal the involvement of the frontal brain areas which are responsible for decision making during the deja vu experience. O’Connor believes that the frontal areas are probably running through the memory files and sending signals when there are conflicts between what we actually experienced and what we think we experienced.
Deja vu may be the sign of a healthy brain
The findings, if confirmed later, suggest deja vu is a sign of a healthy brain. When you experience deja vu, the memory checking system in your brain is working well, which means you are less likely to misremember things. This agrees with what has been observed: Deja vu is less common in older people. Those who often experience deja vu in their youth report to experience it less and less as they age and their memory fades.
Some scientists are skeptical of the findings, claiming it does not fit with those who never experience deja vu at all. In return, O’Connor explains that some people do not experience deja vu since they already have flawless memories in the first place, allowing no room for memory errors which are perceived as the main triggers of deja vu.
Deja vu and epilepsy: Another point of view
Studies on epilepsy suggest a link between deja vu and seizures caused by medial temporal lobe epilepsy – a condition affecting the brain’s hippocampus. The hippocampus plays an important role in managing memories. A report in the medical journal Neuropsychologia shows consistent experiences of deja vu in those who were at the onset of their seizures. Because of this, experts start to connect neural misfirings and deja vu. (A neural misfiring occurs during random neural transmission of signals, causing a healthy brain to go through a false sense of familiarity)
Whether or not deja vu is beneficial to our health, no one can be sure. Experiences of deja vu may serve as a caution sign, urging people to re-assess their memories and warning them not to have so much faith in their memories. Various studies have proven that one’s memories can be altered without their knowledge, though. However, there is no evidence to support this function of deja vu.
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