Deja vu. We've all experienced its mystery and I've always wondered if the phenomenon is related to the possibility that our minds could function outside of linear time. Are we remembering things that happened in the past? Or is it the future? As a recent piece by Amy Reichelt notes, the explanation is much simpler and less nerdy.
Many researchers propose that the phenomenon is a memory-based experience and assume the memory centres of the brain are responsible for it.
The medial temporal lobes are vital for the retention of long-term memories of events and facts. Certain regions of the medial temporal lobes are important in the detection of familiarity, or recognition, as opposed to the detailed recollection of specific events.
It has been proposed that familiarity detection depends on rhinal cortex function, whereas detailed recollection is linked to the hippocampus.
The randomness of déjà vu experiences in healthy individuals makes it difficult to study in an empirical manner. Any such research is reliant on self-reporting from the people involved.
This touches on something far greater than a routine phenomenon. In so many ways, we are computers. The bio-hardware in our minds act as hard drives and when we experience events that we may have experienced before, the memory stick engages and we remember. But perhaps the recollection is fuzzy and we can't quite place where or when it was. Imagine for a moment that we could have access to all of it whenever we wanted and in stark clarity.
With recent gains in technology and the ever present smart phone in the hands of nearly everyone, the merging of biology and hardware seems inevitable. This may mean that those memories could be accessed quickly for retrieval making the deja vu phenomenon a thing of the past. We'd know why we are experiencing that feeling that we've done something before. We'd also have clear and uncut access to everything we'd ever experienced. Reliving a long memory with a lost loved one...think about that for a minute.
Wouldn't that be amazing?