Why do people get deja vu

What It Is and Why It Happens – Cleveland Clinic

When pop icon Olivia Rodrigo sang, “Do you get déjà vu?” she was directing the lyric at her ex-boyfriend and his new lookalike girlfriend. While you may not be able to relate to her past paramour’s penchant for identical love interests, this particular line is pretty darn relatable.

An estimated 97% of people have experienced déjà vu at least once in their lives. This condition, which translates in French to “already seen,” is a transitory sensation of having already lived a totally identical situation at some point in the past.

But why does it happen? And is there a medical explanation for it? Neurologist Jean Khoury, MD, delves deeper into this fleeting phenomenon and what it could mean for your health.

What is déjà vu?

You probably know the feeling: You’re in the midst of a conversation or an activity when, all of a sudden, you’re overwhelmed by the sensation that you’ve done this exact same thing before — but you know that’s not possible.

“Déjà vu is a false sense of familiarity,” Dr. Khoury says. “Your brain creates a sensation as if you have lived a certain situation before, but you’re unable to retrieve it from your memory and cannot identify the actual situation.”

What does déjà vu feel like?

In 1983, Dr. Vernon Neppe defined déjà vu as a “subjectively inappropriate impression of familiarity of a present experience with an undefined past.” In simple terms, that means that when you have déjà vu, you feel like you’re experiencing something that you almost certainly couldn’t have.

“There’s usually an incongruence between the sense of familiarity and the fact that the situation should not feel familiar,” Dr. Khoury explains.

It’s not like taking the same bus route each day and recognizing the scenery — that’s familiarity. Déjà vu, on the other hand, is when you feel like you’ve had this exact same conversation or experienced this very specific scenario in the past, all while also knowing that it cannot have ever happened before.      

What causes déjà vu to happen?

You may not be a magician, but when you experience déjà vu, your brain is creating an illusion. This is thought to happen when there’s a bit of a miscommunication between two parts of your brain.

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“Déjà vu is caused by dysfunctional connections between the parts of your brain that play a role in memory recollection and familiarity,” Dr. Khoury explains.

You have two temporal lobes, one on each side of your head — right above your temples. They play an important role in helping you to:

  • Recall words.
  • Remember places you’ve been.
  • Recognize people.
  • Understand language.
  • Interpret other people’s emotions.

In each temporal lobe is a hippocampus, which contributes to many of these functions and is responsible for storing your short-term memories. Occasionally, like during certain types of seizures, your hippocampus and surrounding brain tissue can be activated, causing you to have memory experiences like déjà vu.

“This causes a disruption of recognition memory systems, which gives you that false sense of familiarity,” Dr. Khoury says.

Is déjà vu normal?

It’s not uncommon or inherently unhealthy to experience déjà vu every now and then. It’s most likely to happen to people who are 15 to 25 years old, and your likelihood of experiencing it decreases progressively as you age. It also happens more frequently during evenings and on weekends than during weekdays.

There are some other things we know about déjà vu, though researchers aren’t exactly sure why. For example, you’re more susceptible to déjà vu if you:

  • Have a high level of education.
  • Travel a lot.
  • Remember your dreams.
  • Hold liberal beliefs.

“Déjà vu is a rare phenomenon in healthy individuals, usually occurring a couple times a year,” Dr. Khoury says. “If it becomes more frequent or is associated with other symptoms, though, it’s important to have it addressed.”

Is déjà vu a seizure?

Experiencing déjà vu doesn’t mean you’re having a seizure. In some cases, though, it can be a symptom of temporal lobe epilepsy, a seizure disorder that starts in the temporal lobe area of your brain.

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“The hippocampus plays a role in recall and conscious recollection; the parahippocampal gyrus, which is also in the temporal lobe, plays a role in familiarity discrimination. When you have epilepsy, there’s usually a disruption of this connection,” Dr. Khoury explains.

Temporal lobe epilepsy may be accompanied by tonic-clonic seizures, which cause uncontrollable convulsions and other muscle movements. Déjà vu associated with this type of epilepsy is also often associated with a loss of awareness, shaking, tongue-biting, urine loss and post-seizure confusion.

Is it ever cause for concern?

Déjà vu may be a sign of underlying health concerns.

“Stress and exhaustion can contribute to déjà vu,” Dr. Khoury says. “But it can also be a sign of seizure disorders, migraines and disorders affecting the memory. ” People who have frontotemporal dementia, for example, often experience persistent déjà vu and tend to try to rationalize the illusion.

Your feelings of déjà vu may be representative of a health issue if they’re accompanied by other symptoms, like:

  • Confusion.
  • Headaches.
  • Loss of awareness.
  • Weakness.
  • Seizures.
  • Shaking.

When déjà vu signals a problem

That occasional “I’ve been here before” experience probably isn’t anything to worry about. But if you start experiencing déjà vu more often than that, it’s time to see a doctor. Make an appointment with a healthcare provider if your déjà vu:

  • Occurs a few times a month or more often (versus just a few times a year).
  • Is followed by loss of consciousness.
  • Is accompanied by abnormal, dream-like memories or visual scenes.
  • Comes with symptoms like unconscious chewing, fumbling, a racing heart or a feeling of fear.

Don’t let persistent or worrisome déjà vu linger. If you have any doubt about the cause of your déjà vu, it’s important to consult with your doctor or go straight to a neurologist.

Have You Experienced Déjà Vu? Causes and When to See a Doctor

Written by WebMD Editorial Contributors

Medically Reviewed by Jabeen Begum on June 22, 2021

In this Article

  • Who Experiences Déjà Vu?
  • What Causes Déjà Vu?
  • What Are the Medical Reasons for Déjà Vu?
  • Should You See a Doctor About Déjà Vu?

Have you ever had the sense that you’ve done something or gone through a new situation before? Does it seem like you know what’s going to happen next? That feeling is often described as déjà vu. The saying comes from French, meaning "already seen."  

Some people think that déjà vu is a sign of a potential psychic phenomenon. But there may be other causes for your déjà vu experiences.

Who Experiences Déjà Vu?

Around 60% to 70% of people in good health experience some form of déjà vu during their lifetime. A familiar sight or sound can trigger the feeling. You may walk into a room in a building you’ve never visited yet feel like you know it intimately. Most feelings of déjà vu disappear quickly, which can make it hard for you to recall specific details about the experience.

Déjà vu happens most often to people between 15 and 25 years of age. We tend to experience the feeling less as we age. If you travel a lot or regularly remember your dreams, you may be more likely to experience déjà vu than others. Someone who is tired or stressed may be prone to déjà vu feelings, too. Most people have the experience during the evenings or on the weekends.

What Causes Déjà Vu?

Memory gets stored in the temporal lobe of the brain. This part of the brain helps us recognize familiar experiences. While science has yet to prove that everyday déjà vu experiences are a result of memories stored in the temporal area, some researchers believe there is a connection between the two.

One experiment done to test the theory that links déjà vu to memory involved creating virtual reality scenarios based on the world of the video game Sims. Many who participated in the project ended up having various déjà vu experiences tied to scenes resembling similar ones viewed earlier.

Some people often feel that déjà vu may help them predict a future event. But the experiment found that individuals didn’t become more likely to guess the correct path or come up with more accurate answers while playing out the virtual reality scenarios. More research is being done to try to figure out exactly why people have feelings of déjà vu.

What Are the Medical Reasons for Déjà Vu?

Most people experience déjà vu with no adverse health effects. In rare cases, déjà vu can be a sign of a neurological disorder. Individuals with epilepsy often have focal seizures that occur in one area of the brain, sometimes in the temporal lobe where we store memories. These are called temporal lobe seizures.

Seizures involve bursts of uncontrolled electrical activity that cause nerve cells in your brain to misfire. The shortness of focal seizures and the fact that people typically remain awake when they happen make it hard to recognize what's happening. People may mistake a person having a focal seizure as daydreaming or staring off into the distance.

Temporal lobe seizures can produce feelings of déjà vu. Signs that you may be having a temporal lobe seizure versus a regular déjà vu experience include:

  • Sudden, unexplained feelings, like joy or anger
  • Problems controlling your muscles
  • Twitching in your muscles
  • Having sensations that involve vision, taste, smell, hearing, and touch
  • Feeling as though you are about to have a seizure

Temporal lobe seizures impact your ability to interact with other people. Most of them last anywhere from 30 seconds to minutes. You may lose awareness of your surroundings or realize that you’ve been sitting and staring off into the distance. Others may observe you smacking your lips or constantly chewing and swallowing during the seizure.

Once the temporal lobe seizure ends, you may find yourself feeling confused. It may be difficult for you to speak or remember what happened while having the seizure. A temporal lobe seizure can become a more serious tonic-clonic (or grand mal) seizure that causes convulsions and makes you lose consciousness.

Should You See a Doctor About Déjà Vu?

You should get an evaluation from a doctor if you suspect that temporal seizures or other neurological issues may be causing your feelings of déjà vu. Get help immediately if you:

  • Have seizures lasting longer than 5 minutes
  • Have trouble gaining control of your breathing after a seizure
  • Remain unconscious after having a seizure
  • Have a second seizure after the first
  • Have other medical issues like diabetes
  • Are currently pregnant
  • Hurt yourself during a seizure

Seek advice from a doctor if this is your first time having a seizure. Ongoing temporal seizures can shrink the hippocampus, the part of the brain that helps you learn and control your memory. You can also lose brain cells, leading to other memory issues.

Scientists have found out why people have a feeling of deja vu

https://ria.ru/20160415/1411884724.html , 04/15/2016

Scientists have found out why people experience a feeling of deja vu

To understand how the feeling of false memories appears, it helps to study the mechanisms of memory. American scientists managed to explain why 60 to 80% of people periodically "confuse" the past with the present.





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Science, USA

MOSCOW, April 15 – RIA Novosti. Deja vu, or the feeling of false memories in healthy people, may be caused by a "misalignment" in the pathways of the nervous system, which causes us to "confuse" the present with the past, according to the University of Texas Health Research Center. An account of their work on the mechanisms behind the appearance of the déjà vu phenomenon is published on the Vital Record News from Texas A&M Health Science Center website.

April 12, 2016, 18:35

Scientists have found out what is special in the brain of mathematiciansFrench researchers have traced how the brains of techies and humanists react to the same tasks, and found out what is the reason for the development of mathematical abilities.

Scientists note that, despite the fact that 60 to 80% of people face the phenomenon of deja vu, this phenomenon has not been fully studied. “This is because there are still no clear and accountable causes that cause deja vu. Since this is most often a retrospective experience of a particular person, it is very difficult to study this phenomenon in the laboratory,” said Michael Hook, associate professor at the University of Texas.

According to the authors of the study, the study of the mechanism of human memory storage helps to shed light on the appearance of deja vu. In particular, the temporal lobes of the brain are responsible for long-term memories, events and facts. And although the connection between deja vu and the mechanisms of information storage in the temporal lobes of the brain has not been clearly established, certain knowledge about this phenomenon was obtained by studying the work of the brain of people suffering from temporal lobe epilepsy, accompanied by seizures.

The results of the study led scientists to conclude that déjà vu can be caused by the malfunctioning of certain neural processes within the brain.

"Clinical reports show that some patients with temporal lobe epilepsy say that déjà vu for them is a warning signal before the onset of another attack," says Michael Hook.

April 9, 2016, 21:57

Media: scientists have linked the passion for adventure with the structure of the brainEarlier studies have shown that human behavior is influenced primarily by genetic predisposition.

That is, the article says, the feeling of false memories becomes the result of certain disturbances in the process of the brain, when the work of the pathways of the nervous system "mismatches", which causes the brain to "confuse" the present with the past.

The same can occur in the brain of absolutely healthy people, scientists say. As an example, they cite the hypnagogic jerk, an involuntary muscle spasm that occurs when a person falls asleep.

"Cases of deja vu in healthy people can also be attributed to the" mismatch "of the nerve impulses of the brain. This can be explained by the fact that the brain is constantly trying to recreate a complete picture of the world, despite the fact that the" picture ", which he sees, is limited", - the article says.

The main mechanism for the manifestation of deja vu in healthy people, scientists from Texas conclude, is a “discrepancy” in the brain memory systems, which allow information received from the outside world to “bypass” short-term memory and go directly to long-term memory, which leads to the feeling of “false memories."

What triggers déjà vu and how long it can last: little-known facts

Image copyright, Getty Images

Image caption,

I feel like this has happened to me before. ..

It's an uncomfortable feeling - like you've been here before, or like you've had this conversation before... But and you know for sure that this could not be. This is deja vu.

Why do we experience deja vu? How can this phenomenon be explained?

1. Travel causes deja vu

Image copyright, Getty Images

Photo caption,

"I think I've seen this balcony before! But it can't be, I've never been to Barcelona before!"

Most often, deja vu is associated with a certain place that seems familiar to us, despite the fact that we have never been there before, says researcher Chris Moulin, who studies the phenomenon of deja vu.

This is because the new place provokes a serious "conflict" between the feeling that something is already familiar to you, and the understanding that it cannot be familiar to you.

Research shows that the more a person travels, the more often they experience a sense of déjà vu.

2. Young people are more likely to experience deja vu

The author of the photo, Getty Images

Image caption,

"How many times have we climbed this mountain?" In youth, the feeling of deja vu is repeated more often than in adulthood and old age

People experience the feeling of deja vu more often in their youth, but, as a rule, no more than once a month.

With age, by the age of 40-50, the feeling of deja vu is repeated less often... 60-year-olds experience a feeling of deja vu only once a year.

3. A day long déjà vu

The author of the photo, Getty Images

Image caption

The feeling of déjà vu is quite unpleasant if it does not leave you all day

For most people this is a rare, fleeting sensation, but in some cases deja vu may not leave you all day - and this is already a serious problem.

Lisa from Manchester first experienced a prolonged sensation of deja vu at the age of 22. According to her, this feeling could not leave her all day.

"I woke up in the morning and realized that this morning was already in my life," she says.

Over time, Lisa began to experience feelings of deja vu more and more often - and they were quite stable, which affected the perception of reality and interfered with her.

Later it turned out that such a persistent feeling of deja vu was associated with a certain type of epilepsy - temporal lobe epilepsy. When this link was identified, doctors were able to prescribe treatment for her.

4. Deja vu is due to an error in the operation of memory systems

Image copyright Getty Images

By studying cases of prolonged and frequent déjà vu sensations, scientists were able to find out the possible causes of this phenomenon.

They believe that the feeling of deja vu is associated with the work of the temporal lobe of the brain, which is responsible for the feeling that we are experiencing something more than once.

The feeling of false memories is the result of certain disturbances in the process of memory. When memory storage systems become out of sync, it causes the brain to "confuse" the present with the past.

Thus, we have a false feeling that all this has already happened.

There is another explanation for the phenomenon of deja vu, which speaks of two parallel realities. When they collide, we experience a feeling of "déjà vu".

In fact, there is another theory that links feelings of déjà vu with reincarnation.

5. The brain helps us get rid of déjà vu with the help of a “fact-checking system”

Image copyright Getty Images

Scientists believe that our brain has a second system that controls the functioning of the temporal lobe of the brain.

Researchers describe this combination as a fact-checking system that helps us understand that we are experiencing false sensations. This understanding helps to get rid of the feeling of deja vu.

6. You may think that you are able to predict the future.

When we experience a strong sense of déjà vu, we may think we can predict what will happen next.

According to Chris Mulin, this is because our memory helps us "foresee" the future.

"Memory helps us avoid the same mistakes and anticipate what might happen," says the scientist.

Sometimes, when more areas of the brain are connected to the formation of the feeling of deja vu than usual, the feeling of deja vu can affect our emotions, as well as create a feeling that you know what will happen next.

7. Antonym deja vu - jamevu

Image copyright, Getty Images

Photo caption,

When the familiar suddenly becomes unfamiliar, that's Jamevu

Jamevu is the opposite of deja vu, the sudden feeling that a well-known place or person seems completely unknown or unusual.

Learn more