Déjà Vu
is it live or is it Memorex ?



A popular commercial of the 1990s was for a recording medium known as memorex, which is still marketed today. The implication of the commercials was that you would not be able to tell the difference betwwen music recorded on their media and the real thing. Deja-Vu is somewhat similar in that at times people can not discern the difference between various forms of memory and their relation to their current standing in time, what they are presently experiencing.

Déjà Vu comes from French, it translates to 'already seen', it is a common sensation that most people have experienced to varying degrees. 60-70% of people between the ages of 15 and 25 admit to having experienced it [1]. When it happens, it stokes our memories of a place we've seen, a person we have already met, or something we have already experienced but can't quite seem to grasp the who, what, when or where of the happenstance, which further stokes a sense of metaphysical eerieness.

Some have attributed memories of a past lives, others believe deja vu to be future memories or precognition of future events. Some Psychology professionals attribute it to wishful thinking, while others cite mental mismatching causing the brain to mistake the present for the past. Cognitive psychologist Dr. Anne Cleary set out to examine the possibility of deja-vu as a form of precognition. She had already been studying the phenomena for over 10 years and had made some headway on unraveling the cognitive anomaly.

She may have begun her study with a prejudice not welcome in objective research, but not knowing the good doctor I'll refrain from making an accustaion of deliberate bias. Her work to date implied that deja-vu was little more than a trick of memory that occurs when you think you recall something but you can't quite put your finger on it. Cleary and her team endeavored to recreate the feeling of deja vu in a lab setting by creating scenes and situations that are laid out in almost identical fashion with one or two variables differing slightly. A store display arranged like a room you've already seen, for example, with a mannequin where a bed or even television used to be.

Old Memorex Commercial

Cleary and her team believe that they triggered déjà vu in study volunteers, who were then asked to predict what would happen next. 16 study videos of scenes were set up in a computer simulation that was viewed by 298 volunteers. The videos each began with a female voice announcing the name of the scene twice, then volunteers watched as the camera moved through the simulated scene, making turns at various and precisely spaced landmarks. The volunteers then watched 32 test videos of simulations, that were visually different but spatially identical to the study scenes in the first 16 videos. If in the first video a fish had swam left at a certain point, in the spatially identical replicate a car perhaps would turn left. In one simulation the landmark they turned at might be an underwater rock pile such as in an aquarium setting, while in the next the landmark could be a patch of shrubs shaped in a fashion similar to the rock pile.

Come the 'final exam', the second video, the video was frozen just before that prodigal left turn, and the volunteers were asked to predict which way it would go. The actual predictions for that final turn were no better than chance. Even though their memories were supposed to be screaming deja vu and many test subjects had a sense that they were able to predict the outcome.

Clearys study, it is claimed implies that deja-vu is little more than a feeling and dismisses psychic theories about déjà vu. In my humble opinion what it also implies is that the Cleary team failed to sufficiently trigger real deja vu in the subjects.

Cleary stated that "Even scientists who don't believe in past lives have whispered to me, 'Do you have an explanation for why I have this?' People look for explanations in different places."

One of the "different places' that other researchers have looked for explanations in are the temporal lobes of our brains. Researchers believe they pinpointed disturbances of the medial temporal lobe as as being responsible for déjà vu. Studies performed on epilepsy patients proved that stimulation of this section of the brain can induce déjà vu episodes.

The medial temporal lobe is located deep within the brains cortex. As a portion of the cerebral cortex it assists in the formation of memory. The hippocampus is a part of this central section of the brain, which is involved in forming and storing long-term memories.

What some people draw from the epilepsy research is that small seizures in the brains temporal lobe, such as those induced by the elctrical stimulation of the researchers, is responsible for the sensation of deja vu. "With déjà vu, a brief synaptic misfiring might occur in these areas, creating the illusion that the event has occurred before," Alan Brown- department of psychology at Southern Methodist University.

So getting back to this articles title - "Is it real or is it Memorex ?"



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Footnotes

Why Deja vu Can Create an Illusion of Precognition Anne M. Cleary Ph.D. Quirks of Memory

1. The Science Behind deja vu

The Neuroscience of Déjà Vu