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Deja vu

Sergio Navega snavega at ibm.net
Sat Feb 27 09:15:22 EST 1999

David B. Held wrote in message <36D73CA3.530F at uswest.net>...
> Perhaps this is another dead horse that has been senselessly beaten
>here, but are there any neurophysiological explanations for deja vu?
>I've heard theories ranging from the somewhat plausible: Event is
>anomalously stored in LTM rapidly, thus creating the sensation of
>familiarity, as it accesses the instant "memory"; to the
>not-so-plausible: Deja vu is experienced when your timeline loops onto
>itself, and touches a different temporal point, giving your mind access
>to information from that time.
> Does the first explanation have any truth to it, or is there a better


Glad to see you concerned with neuroscience! I've seen some of your
thoughtful posts in comp.ai.philosophy (some months ago we were
discussing about inductive forms of reasoning) and I had agreed with
your comments.

In my vision, Deja Vu is just another illusion. The main point is that
one of the important activities of our brain is to reduce the
complexity of what we sense. If I ask you to draw an apple, you will
not draw yesterday's exemplar, nor the one you ate last week. You
will probably draw a copy of an internal "model", a categorized
concept that your brain have, trying to join most of the relevant
aspects of what you think it is to be an apple.

In this regard, most of what we perceive is "stored" using such
"stylized" representations. We do that not only regarding objects,
but also situations. Roger Schank proposed models in which we
store "scripts" of several daily situations. While his model may
need some modernization, I agree that much of our vision of the
world is represented stories drawn upon high-level invariants
(cf. Gibson).

This is what I see as the root of Deja Vu. There are so many
situations in our life in which we *recognize* high-level aspects
that match so well with previous experiences that we "feel"
like living that moment again. It is, obviously, an illusion.

So far, this is cognitive psychology. As for neuroscience, I'm
not sure. I guess one way or another neuroscientists will have
to explain what cognitive science discovers and then we will
obtain a grounded explanation for Deja Vu and many other

Sergio Navega.

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