This skips over the mechanisms the brain normally uses to store information, so it could feel like we are experiencing something from the past. It could also be something to do with the rhinal cortex, which is an area of the brain that makes us feel familiarity. It could somehow be activated without triggering other areas associated with memory. It's usually a vague familiarity, not a specific object or person.
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Psychologist Valerie F. Reyna came up with one of the leading theories for false memories.
She told Business Insider:. It dissociates reality from your memory.
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- What science says about why we get déjà vu - Business Insider.
Sometimes you cannot be sure, for example, if you dreamed something or experienced it, if you saw it in a movie or it happened in real life. Work last year by psychology researcher Akira O'Connor , however, suggested false memories may not be to blame. Instead, it could be a sign of the brain checking its memory. O'Connor and his team scanned the brains of 21 volunteers while doing a common test for triggering false memories, New Scientist reported.
To do this, you give a person a list of related words, such as bed, night, snooze, and nap. Then, when the person is asked about the words afterwards, they tend to give words related to what they've heard — in this case it would be "sleep. But when they asked about the word "sleep," they were able to remember they couldn't have heard it, but it felt familiar all the same. The team expected to see areas of the brain associated with memory — such as the hippocampus — light up. But it didn't.
Instead, areas involved in decision making were active. When presenting the findings at the International Conference on Memory in Budapest , O'Connor said he thinks the frontal regions of the brain could be flipping through our memories, then sending signals if there's a mismatch between what we think we've experienced and what we actually have experienced.
If it's not an error, but the prevention of an error, this makes a lot more sense.
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What science says about why we get déjà vu
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Anatomical origin of déjà vu and vivid 'memories' in human temporal lobe epilepsy.
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