Déjà vu, or translated from French- ‘already seen’, is something we have all experienced. You walk up to the coffee shop counter, ready to order a latte, and are suddenly overwhelmed by the feeling that you have experienced this experience before. Déjà vu could perhaps be better described as déjà vécu, or ‘already lived through’. Déjà vu even has a counterpart- jamais vu, or ‘never seen’, which is the experience of being unfamiliar with one's situation, though still recognizing parts of it. Some people, especially those living in ancient times, believed déjà vu to be mystical in nature- a kind of premonition. Scientists believe that it is merely a trick of our memories.
There are two kinds of déjà vu: pathological and non-pathological. Non-pathological déjà vu is the sort that most of is experience, where we simply feel the feeling. Pathological déjà vu is experienced in people with temporal lobe epilepsy, a condition causing seizures that centre on the temporal lobe of the brain, the lobe most involved in processing sensory inputs and making visual memories, comprehending language and making emotional associations. Some scientists believe that all cases of déjà vu are pathological, as they are associated with mild epileptic episodes, related to improper electrical discharges between neurons in the brain.
Déjà vu is quite hard to study since most experiences of it are fleeting and unexpected, but studies using hypnosis, or virtual reality have tried. One interesting theory for the phenomenon is that signals enter the temporal lobe (in the left hemisphere of the brain) twice, once from each hemisphere, and a slight delay between these two signals could cause someone to seem to experience events ‘twice’, almost instantaneously.
Whatever the cause of it, you can be assured that in the majority of cases, déjà vu occurs because the human brain is a bit strange, not because you have successfully seen the future in a dream.
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