Basic Science

What is déjà vu and why it happens?

You know, those moments where the current situation feels like it happened before? You’re certain it has, but you don’t know when, or how it became so familiar. It seems like little bit confusing and strange to you. At that time many things come to your mind. “Oh man.., what’s going on? I think this same scene happened with me before also, may be in childhood or in pichle janam. Something is fishy here in my mind.” Yeah this strange situation happens with most of us. You feel that you are reliving the moment. But you are wrong, there is nothing like this.

This strange feeling called déjà vu, which is a magical power. Isn’t it sound interesting?

Déjà Vu is a french term which means ‘already seen’. As the name suggests it is a strange feeling that the current situation has happened before. It is an experience in which a place  seems familiar, although you have visited that place for the first time. But what causes déjà vu one of the prevailing theories suggests that sometimes visual information from one of our eyes is transmitted a little late to the brain. So information from the first eye reaches the brain first. Now when the information from the other eye reaches the brain a little late, our brain received the same information twice. Then this situation or place appears familiar, it appears as if we have seen it already that is how we experience dèjà vu.

Well it’s probably a abnormality.  People who experience chronic and persistent déjà vu tends to have brain disorder. Well that sounds kind a bad, right? It means when you experience déjà vu, you should run to the doctor right away. Wait, wait….Well, not at all. In fact minor events are quite common.

As many as 90% of us  experience déjà vu. People don’t experience it until they’re at atleast 8 or 9 years old. It’s most frequent in our teens or twenties. And then tappers off as you get older.So it might have something to do with brain development. There are some theories that explain Déjà vu.

Let’s walk through three of today’s most prevalent theories. Let’s take a practical view of a restaurant to understand these theories. You go to a restaurant, a scene in the restaurant plays out exactly as you remember. The world moves like a ballet you’ve choreographed but the sequence can’t be based on a past experience because you have never eaten here before. This is the first time you come here. So what’s going on?

First is dual processing. Let’s go with a waiter dropping a dish of pasta. As the scene unfolds your brain’s hemisphere processes a flurry of information, the waiter’s flailing arms, his cry for help, the smell of pasta. Within milliseconds, this information zip through pathway and is processed as a single moment. Most of  the everything recorded in sync. However, this theory says that déjà vu occurs when there is slight delay in information from one of these pathways. The difference in arrival time causes the brain to interpret the late information as a separate event. When it plays over the already recorded moment, it feels that it happened before because, in sense it has. It is all like you are looking at the waiter, he comes then he drops the dish of pasta and you feel the smell of delicious pasta and then………. and then the brain says “whoa, whoa, wait, wait, and then waiter flail right? That’s already happened I thought?” And that may be Déjà vu.

Our next theory deals with a confusion of the past rather than a mistake in the present. This is the hologram theory. And we will use the tablecloth to examine. When you see that floral print table cloth in that restaurant, a distant memory swims up from deep within your brain. This is because memories are stored in the form of hologram and in hologram you only need fragment to see the whole picture. Your brain has identified the tablecloth within from the past, may be from your grandmother’s house. However instead of remembering that you’ve seen it at your grandmother’s house, your brain has summoned up the old memories without identfying it. This leave you stuck with familiarity but sadly no recollection. Although you have never been in the restaurant, you have seen the tablecloth but just failing to identify it. Yeah I know this happens with you most of the time.

Now let’s come to the third theory, Now you look at the fork. Ya, you are right we are in that same restaurant till now. Are you paying attention at the fork? Our last theory is divided attention. And it states that déjà vu occurs when our brain subliminally takes in an environment while we’re distracted by one particular object. When our attention returns, we feel as if we’ve been here before. For example, just now you focused on the fork and didn’t observe the tablecloth or the falling waiter. Although your brain has recorded everything it’s been doing so below conscious awareness. When you finally pull yourself away from the fork, you think you’ve been here before because you have not paid attention. While all three theories share the common features of déjà vu.

The next time you get déjà vu, take a moment to think about it.

Have you been distracted?

Is there a familiar object somewhere?

Is your brain just acting slow or is it something else?

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Shreya Sharma

Hi, this is shreya sharma, an ambivert, creative and fun loving girl whose hobby switches between writing and crafting. She is Economics graduate from kalindi college, Delhi university.

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