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Can the physics of consciousness transcend space-time?

  1. Sep 12, 2003 #1
    While reading an article on time travel I came across a section titled 'Is Time an Illusion?'. Immediately I was drawn to a conversation I shared with a good friend of mine a few months prior. We had been talking all night about different subjects that are unexplained but interested us to look into. One of our topics was Deja Vu.

    The article explained a little about quantam mechanics and a sort of "handshake" made by an electron and another particle it interacts with. An electromagnetic wave is emmited from one particle at light speed into the future (retarded wave)and the other particle, at the same time, emits another wave back (advanced wave). Thus, the "handshake" is made where the two waves meet. What is interesting is that this is very close to the idea I had about how Deja Vu occurs.

    It is my understanding that during the R.E.M. (rapid eye movement) portion of our sleep, our brains are literally going haywire doing all the necessary things it needs to do to give us rest, produce our dreams, and perform many other functions. Could it be that during this time our brains break free of space-time, actually visit parallel dimensions and can even see ourselves in the future. What if while dreaming, our "brainwaves" hyperactivate and shoot out,at light speed, to the future (retarded wave) where our future brains simultaneously send out waves of us perceiving our environment (advanced wave) forming our all to real dream. Then when we finally catch up with the future and start to experience the same EXACT things we saw in a dream, we remember and experience Deja Vu.

    I am no authority on quantum mechanics, "brainwaves", or time travel, but this seems like it could have some credibility behind it. This is only a rough draft type theory and I would love to have some feed back.

    Kenny
     
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2003
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  3. Sep 12, 2003 #2

    selfAdjoint

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    The article was apparently describing Cramer's Transactional Interpretation of quantum mechanics (at least going by the term "handshake"). In this interpretation quantum wavefunctions go forward and also backward in time (all this in accordance with the Schroedinger equation which is invariant under time reversal). They bounce off "absorbers" in the distant past and future. Tha past absorber is usually interpreted at the Big Bang. In the old days when a big crunch was expected in the future, that was the future absorber. I don't know what they use now.

    Anyway the reflected wave functions then interfere ("handshake") in the present and produce quantum weirdness. It all computes.

    How this correlates with consciousness I don't know either.
     
  4. Sep 12, 2003 #3
    Mind has to be a basic property of reality. If not, then where did it come from.
     
  5. Sep 12, 2003 #4
    That's an interesting idea. However, I find it more likely that Deja Vu experiences are just a psychological phenomenon - we imagine that we remember something. Yes, it feels 100% real - I've felt it too - but I think the mind is a very powerful thing, capable of fooling even ourselves.

    The question is, did you really know about an experience before it happened, or do you just think you did? The true way to test it would be to document all dreams and predictions that you have about the future, and then see if they ever happen. In fact, many people keep dream journals. But I've never heard of any clear-cut cases when someone's documented dream came true, to the closeness that Deja Vu experiences feel like.

    I encourage anyone who is interested in Deja Vu experiences to try this. Dreams are interesting anyway, so it's nice to keep a record of them.

    selfAdjoint, what you said about "absorbers" is very interesting. I've only read about the transactional interpretation in John Gribbin's biography of Richard Feynman. There was a section towards the end of the book titled "physics after Feynman", and it gave a brief overview of the transactional idea. What you're saying about absorbers sounds great, and I think I'll have to look into it some more!
     
  6. Sep 12, 2003 #5

    selfAdjoint

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    Google on Transactional Interpretation. John Cramer also has a website, where he posts his Alternate View columns from Analog sff magazinte.
     
  7. Sep 12, 2003 #6
    Thanks for the input Self, and it was John Cramers work I read about in the article.

    That is a good point you bring up Smiley, because I had also looked into that aspect and read that in one theory the two parts of the brain dedicated to short term memory and long term memory are close enough to each other that minor chem imbalances in the brain can sometimes throw your experience directly to long term bypassing short term therefore fooling you into believing you knew this for some time. I have never actually recorded my dreams and then had them come true, so that point, to me, is quite valid.

    Another phyisics question I have towards dreams is this:
    When we dream, time seems to last much longer than in the waking world. Could this correlate with Einstein's relativity in the sense that speed can slow time to the one moving while it remains constant to those standing still? If the processes in the brain do hyperactivate could they move fast enough to cause this sort of time dillution?
     
  8. Sep 12, 2003 #7

    hypnagogue

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    Kenneth, I think you're thinking of the subjective experience too much in terms of our descriptions of objective reality. Note that just as our scientific theories are models of reality, our minds and attendant subjective experiences are equally models of reality-- just a very different kind of model. A model, of course, does not necessarily map perfectly onto the thing it is emulating. Case in point, both deja vu and subjective time dilation can be explained as artifacts of the subjective model the brain creates of reality rather than being indicators of actual phenomena of reality.

    The subjective experience of time is a function of how the mind works; there are even some theories postulating that the subjective experience of time is caused by regular, periodic chemical interactions in certain parts of the brain. Thus, if we experience time dilation, it doesn't necessarily mean that time is being dilated in the relativistic sense; it could just be that our mental mechanisms for perceiving the flow of time are functioning differently than usual.
     
  9. Sep 13, 2003 #8
    Kenneth V,

    I'm sure everyone has a rough idea
    of what a seizure is. Let me ask
    you if you are at all familiar
    with what's going on with the
    neurons in the brain when a per-
    son has a seizure?

    -Zooby

    P.S. Pertinence to your topic to
    come.
     
  10. Sep 15, 2003 #9
    Seizures are caused by uncontrolable electrical changes in brain activity. The location and severity of these changes determine what kinds of seizures will occur. Some changes in brain activity stay in one part of the brain (partial seizures) and others can spread to both sides of the brain (generalized seizures). Some people experience and "aura" before, and sometimes during a seizure. Headaches, "weird" noises, and "funny" feelings in the stomach are some examples of these auras. That's about all I can think of for now.

    Kenny
     
  11. Sep 15, 2003 #10
    KennethV,

    That is a more than excellent
    answer.

    Just to tune it up a bit:
    The exact nature of the uncon-
    trolled electrical activity is
    the hypersynchronous firing
    of neurons. Normally the firing
    is unsynchronized. The signals
    traveling in intersecting circuits
    will each allow the other its use
    of the common path by not firing
    at the same time. During a seizure
    every circuit deriving from
    the seizure focus will begin to
    fire all at exactly the same time.
    The result is a signal whose amplitude is vastly larger than normal, and which will act to
    entrain a greater and greater
    number of circuits into the riot.
    The worst case scenario is the
    full brain involvement of a Tonic-
    Clonic seizure - full body con-
    vulsions and loss of conscious-
    ness.

    The least that can happen is, as
    you correctly pointed out, the
    Simple Partial seizure, one that
    does not spread very far and re-
    mains localized to a very small
    region of the brain.

    There are two kinds of partial
    seizures, the Simple Partial, and
    the Complex partial. In the Comp-
    lex Partial although it does not
    spread to the whole brain it does
    manage to cross from one hemi-
    sphere to the other causing, not
    unconsciousness, but a "defect in
    consciousness" such that the pers-
    on would appear drugged or stupi-
    fied.

    In the Simple Partial the seizure
    activity always remains confined
    to one hemisphere only and there
    is no alteration in the level of
    consciousness.

    This sounds harmless enough but
    the fact is this hypersynchronous
    neuronal firing (amplitudes at
    least ten times normal) can cause
    sensory distortions so outrageous
    that the person often fears for
    his sanity.

    Lets say the seizure activity
    spreads back into the occipital
    lobe where vision is controlled.
    Suddenly whatever the person is
    looking at might start to grow
    larger and larger right before his
    eyes untill it fills his vision.
    This is Macropsia: the
    horrible experience of seeing the
    world as if throw a huge magni-
    fying glass.

    Lets say the seizure activity gets
    to the auditory center in the
    Temoro-parietal region. Now small
    sounds become horrible roars. For
    the brief (hopefully) duration
    of the seizure the poor sufferer
    is scared out of his wits by all
    sound being jacked up to the
    volume of a jet engine. Since this
    sound isn't actually coming in
    through his ears there's no limit
    to the loudness - it can get loud-
    er and louder and never deafen him


    But now, let us suppose the seiz-
    ure activity travels inward, to
    the inner temporal lobe where an
    amazing organ called the Hippo-
    campus is located. What's the
    Hippocampus? It is something like
    an orchestra conductor, and the
    symphony it conducts is Memory.

    Whenever any information comes
    into our brain through our sences
    it is sent to many parts of the brain for processing but whereever it goes it always goes to the
    Hippocampus where it is checked
    against stored memory. If the
    Hippocampus recognises the info,
    which it usually does in some
    connection, it adds to it just
    exactly the correct proportion
    of familiarity it should
    have. That is: is triggers just
    exactly the right level of
    physiological response in the body
    to how familiar the info is.

    Now you may think that the familiarity of an object or situation is a quality inherent
    in that object or situation and it
    may seem passing strange to say
    that some part of the brain is
    needed to tell the physiological
    orchestra to play a little more
    softly here, but woodwinds please
    a little more, in response to the
    object, but this is, in fact, the
    case. Normally the Hippocampus
    does its job so perfectly we do
    not notice it is even there, do
    not even suspect it exists.

    You don't know what you got, till
    it's gone.

    The hypersynchronous ionic dominos
    fall, each toppling the next,
    untill the electrical surge
    reaches our conductor, freezing
    him in a rictus of the FORTE gesture. The orches- tra obeys, crescendoing to its
    loudest possible volume. The
    seized victim stops and is stunned
    overwhelmed by the unbelievable
    strength of a feeling of familiar-
    ity from nowhere.

    But remember, he doesn't know he
    has a Hippocampus or that he needs
    one. As far as he knows familiar-
    ity is a quality inherent in the
    things around us. Everything in
    the vicinity is what must be so
    amazingly familiar. But from what?
    How? He can't have been in this
    exact moment before, can he? And
    yet his physiological reactions
    are telling him not just that it
    is familiar, but extremely, extr-
    ordinarily familiar!

    The seizure subsides. Everything
    feels normal again, except he is
    now bewildered as to what just
    happened.
    ---------------------

    Is he Epileptic?

    No. Roughly 50% of the general
    population has at least one simple
    partial seizure in their lifetime.
    Epilepsy is a term that only
    applies to people with chronic
    seizures. A simple partial in a
    non epileptic is usually the re-
    sult of an unfortunate coincidence
    of several factors, such as lack
    of good sleep, coupled with bad
    diet, and stress.

    If you google up Simple Partial
    Seizure you should find several
    sites that list these "experient-
    ial" kinds of symptoms, along with
    autonomic symptoms, and localized
    convulsions. Intense fear with no
    known object is probably the most
    common simple partial symptom,
    followed by Deja Vu as a close
    second.
    ---------------------
    Now you speak of the peculiar
    experience of seeming to realize
    that what seems familiar during
    a Deja Vu is something you saw in
    a dream.

    I have had this experience as well
    in addition to Deja Vus where I
    have NO idea where I "remember"
    the present from.

    When it seems to be something I've
    dreampt it has all the very same
    intensity (hyperintensity) the
    regular Deja Vu has, yet I seem
    to be able to vividly remember
    having dreampt it.

    This, I cannot explain.

    Zoobyshoe
     
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2003
  12. Sep 16, 2003 #11

    hypnagogue

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    zooby, I don't know if you've had personal experience with this phenomenon but I believe I have, and it's sort of misleading to say that visual objects grow until they "fill vision." It's something much more subtle and interesting than that; the objects retain their objective 'size' in the visual field, in the sense of subtending visual angles and all that. Rather what changes is some sort of tacit perception of their size. This is a rather dumbfounding thing to experience, but as you explain analogously with memory, apparent size is not so much a function of the object itself as it is a function of brain activity. Specifically, implicit perception of size is not as directly and inextricably correlated with size in the visual field as you might think. So when you experience macropsia while looking at a lamp, it's not that the lamp looks like it is physically "in your face" and occupying your whole visual field so much as the lamp just somehow seems inordinately big, even though it remains in essentially the same visual context of an entire room.

    In fact, everything we perceive is perceived in virtue of how our brain constructs its model of the world, so this observation of perceived qualities being functions of brain activity and not phsyically existent external qualities really applies to everything we subjectively think/feel/know/believe. The only reason it appears otherwise is that our brains are normally so good at mapping a logically consistent perceptual picture onto logically consistent sensual inputs that we are blind to the inherent mental construction underlying it all. Case in point, we usually don't think of the perceived size of an object as being distinct in any way from visual awareness of that object, and so it is natural to think under normal circumstances that the one follows directly and naturally from the other; i.e., to think that perceived size is essentially a function of the external object and not an internal creation (and thus, for an object to look bigger it must actually subtend a larger visual angle than normal). But in fact perceived size is implicitly created by the brain at least partially independently from 'direct' visual awareness, which underscores the extent to which it is a purely mental fabrication. It is one thing to come to a philosophical understanding of the illusory nature of naive realism, quite another to viscerally experience it by actually observing firsthand where the ornate and tacit mental construction of reality begins to break down.

    As for the partial seizure explanation of deja vu, I don't doubt that it accounts for some cases, but it doesn't seem to be the final explanation for all of them. This much is implied by the following (from http://www.epilepsy.org.uk/info/simple.html):

    edit: As for having deja vu involving a recognition of a previously dreamed experience, this could potentially be explained by the same anomalous functioning of the hippocampus that you used to describe the deja vu experience that occurs without a corresponding dream element. I.e., not only having the anomalous memory experience that "I have been here before," but also "I have dreamt this before." An easy way to discount this explanation would be to keep a dream log; if a deja vu experience corresponds to a dream you have already documented, then it must be corresponding to an actual dream you have had in the past rather than to a spontaneously created image of a dream that never really happened, or one that did not happen precisely as you remember it.
     
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2003
  13. Sep 16, 2003 #12
    Hypnagogue,

    No, I haven't ever had the experi-
    ence of macropsia, myself. Most
    often I've heard it described only
    briefly, in words to the effect
    that things look larger than they
    actually are as if they are being
    seen through a magnifying glass.
    Here is the only description I've
    ever read that went into detail:

    "One morning, a gray-skied Sunday
    in late October, I was sitting on
    the living room couch, feeling
    normal enough, when suddenly I
    found myself staring at a book
    lying open on the coffee table in
    front of me. The book began to
    grow untill the rectangular pages
    were folio size. At the same time
    the markings on each page grew
    larger and larger. Those on the
    left-hand page retained their or-
    erliness, but those on the right
    began to tumble and rearrange
    themselves, dissolving into fiery
    lines and molten shapes that moved
    faster and faster always growing
    larger and larger untill I could
    see only the right-hand page. When
    it was so large I no longer saw
    its edges I cried out `I'm
    afraid!'."

    That is from Epilepsy: A New
    Aproach
    By Adrienne Rich and
    Joel Reiter M.D.

    I have to compliment you on the
    clarity wth which you described
    your experience. Most people with
    simple partial seizures become
    tongue-tied when trying to put
    these perceptual distortions into
    words.

    It makes it clear that what you
    were describing is not the same
    thing this woman experienced. This
    makes me wonder what the other
    people I've heard talking about
    it as "things looking larger than
    they actually are" were saying.
    Were they refering more to what
    you experienced or what this
    woman experienced. It could be
    an even split.

    In order to see what might be
    going on here I have solicited
    some more testimony about this
    experience from my corespondants
    in the world of Epilepsy. There's
    no telling how quickly they'll
    get back to me if at all, so
    please be patient.

    As for Deja Vus, the site where
    you found that quote is one of the
    many unfortunate sites aimed at
    comforting people with Epilepsy.
    These are most often put together
    by non-neurologists and there is
    often a gem of misinformation or
    two, babbled with the best of
    intentions.

    Some people, when they find out
    Deja Vus are a seizure, go into
    denial and assert:"Well, maybe
    some of them are, but why are you
    assuming all Deja Vus are
    caused by seizures?"

    There are, in fact, M.D.s still
    cranking out different theories
    about the cause of Deja Vus. I can
    only speculate that they haven't
    heard about simple partial
    seizures, or that, if they have,
    they can't accept that such a
    large percentage of the population
    could be having seizures. The
    seizural cause of Deja Vus has
    been undeniably proven with hard
    data collected from EEGs done with
    depth implanted electrodes many
    times over. Yet the myth of the
    non-seizural Deja Vu persists
    despite a complete lack of proof
    of any kind.

    Neuro-Psychiatrist Paul Spiers
    adresses his audiences thus:

    "How many of you in this room" he
    asked his audience, "have had a
    deja vu?" More than half of
    the forty people in attendence
    raised their hands. "Welcome,
    fellow epileptics," chuckled
    Spiers..."

    "...Now, we all have these experiences,"he said. "Does that mean we all have seizures?" Sever-
    al in the audience shook their heads. "Probably, it does," Spiers
    corrected. "We probably all
    have seizures, but that does not
    mean that we all have a seizure
    disorder."

    That is from the book Seized, by Eve LaPlante.

    -Zooby
     
  14. Sep 22, 2003 #13

    hypnagogue

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    Sorry for the delayed response zooby (can I call you zooby? :wink:). Very interesting stuff. The example of macropsia that you recount seems to be more directly related to a mismatched or changing objective/subjective mapping-- information that once occupied 20% of the visual field now occupies 100%-- whereas the phenomenon I reported (if it is properly called macropsia and not something else) seemed more to do with purely subjective constructs of perceived size (since objects are not inherently 'big' or 'small'). On the other hand, it could also be that I was experiencing a very mild micropsia of the 'magnified' kind and could not appreciably detect an objective size difference even though my subjective intuition of it was skewed. (I doubt this as it doesn't really seem to characterize my experience as well as the alternate explanation, but of course I can't discount it outright as a possibility either.) In any case, I look forward to the potential further insights you might get on this from your insider connections.

    As for the deja vu issue, hopefully you can answer this question from your prior reading experience: in something like your "growing book" example, does the surrounding environment grow or shrink in proportion to the book, or does it look something like a giant book sitting on a normal sized table? The former would constitute a rescaling of the information in the image (ie 'zooming in') while the latter would constitute actually restructuring the information in the image. The answer to that question, I think, can tell us a lot about the nature of macropsia.

    As for the deja vu issue, I haven't read extensively on the subject of seizures and their relationship with deja vu, but please for the moment bear with my purely rational concern over a statement to the effect of, "all episodes of deja vu are caused by partial epileptic seizures." Can scientists induce the deja vu experience in the lab? If so, can they be sure that they are inducing a representative set of all types of deja vu experiences? I don't mean to refute any scientific claims out of hand, just to tread carefully. Having mounds of documented evidence that partial seizures are correlated with deja vu experiences solidly establishes that at least some deja vu's are caused by seizures, but to say that ALL deja vu's are caused by seizures, it seems as if one would have to show the impossibility of some alternative neural mechanism causing the experience as well.
     
  15. Sep 23, 2003 #14
    Hypnagogue,

    Of course you may call me "Zooby".

    I don't have much more to say about the macropsia. The only person who responded to my query has a huge variety of visual distortions happening at once and had a hard time describing them in any way that would allow someone who hadn't had the experience to form an understanding.

    I answer to your last question: in order to be able to say that all deja vus are caused by seizures one would, indeed, have to rule out any other possible cause. No one is making that claim, however. No one is saying there can be no other cause. Spiers says wer are all probably having seizures.

    My objection is to the people who are asserting the opposite: that there must also be another cause. No one has ever shown there to be any other cause. It is my personal opinion that people keep wasting their time looking for another cause for the simple reason that they cannot come to grips with the concept that they have had a seizure of any kind,no matter how small and isolated and harmless a phenomenon that actually is.

    Wilder Penfield was the first neurosurgeon to induce deja vus and a variety of other seizure experiences in epileptics whose heads were open already for tumor removals, by stimulating the brain with electrodes carrying millivolts. This has been reproduced frequenty since. The exact location of the hipocampus and surrounding tissues as the origin of deja vus was done with depth implanted electrodes in patients being prepared for surgery. They can both pick up the the gross amplitude changes in spontaneously occuring seizures, and, induce seizures by applying voltage to these electrodes.

    By stimulating seizures in this way they have, indeed, reproduced all the same kinds of deja vus that are reported in other situtions, including the ones where it seems to be something you have previously dreampt. The other main kind seems to be that the feeling of deja vu is accompanied by a very vivid memory of a childhood scene. I have never experienced that, myself, and can't say for sure I understand the implications of it.

    The guy who responded to my solicitation for information has seizures as the result of traumatic brain injury. From what I have read, that, and having advanced tumors (and having them removed) cause the very worst, most intense seizures of all kinds. In addition to things seeming "magnified" he has huge problems with shifts in depth perception, field of view, and several problems related to things separating from the background: he says that sometimes when he's looking at an object it "floats" and seems to be in a different coordinate system than that of the background. Looking at a book on a wooden desk, he says the grain of the wood starts to flow like a river and waver around while the book just sits there.
    Those were a couple of the things he said that I could make some sence of. He reported that he was in the throes of some of these things as he wrote (it doesn't seem to let up often for him) and his writing was getting less lucid as he went along.

    All for now.

    -Zooby
     
  16. Sep 23, 2003 #15
    Or it could be your brain associating a familiar memory or memories with the one you are having in the present. Thus, making you believe you had said or did something or was in a certain place before. Yet, not true.

    Even if it has something to do with Quantum Mechanics it doesn't change much. Admittedly, deja vu (spelled wrong I think) is still descriptive of something you've never done before. At least, in this reality.

    However, I consider it more likely your brain is playing tricks on you. But, don't take me wrong. I'm a really optimistic enthusiastic type but I have to watch it or I end up believing in some bull ****.
    Much as I love to think of alternate universes and especially alternate me's.
     
  17. Sep 25, 2003 #16

    Nereid

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    Kenneth V said:
    How could you test this, even in principle?

    On the one hand, as many have said here, by recording dreams and comparing them with future events.

    Are there any tests that would involve the brain, rather than what a person says they dream or feel?
     
  18. Sep 25, 2003 #17
    Kenneth V that is an intersting thought but it's speculation. Much as I love speculation to an extent, that is getting out of control. I'm no scientist but I think we should also be thinking of possible ways to test these things (yes, thats all you nereid). Just because we aren't UCLA specialists doesn't mean our ideas are any less valuable. Oh, what I mean is don't sell your self short, sometimes us little guys think of amazing things (all about perspective :D ).

    I know we are just scratching the surface in studying the brain. Of course, correct me if I'm wrong but what we can do externally is very limited. Right now they are experimenting with magnets to alter moods. So far they can't penetrate deep enough to safely treat serious depression or other mood disorders.

    Also, they have a machine that has a high chance of telling whether you are lying or not. Better than a polygraph but not full proof and that says something awful about the polygraph.
     
  19. Sep 27, 2003 #18

    Nereid

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    Some crazy (?) ideas for tests:
    1. do some more of those EEG experiments on sleeping people (wake them up when the EEG shows one pattern or another, or when the pattern changes; ask them whether they had a deja vu dream, etc)
    2. repeat, only this time let them dream inside an MRI machine, or have PET to hand to use when deja vu dreams begin (as determined by 1). Expect some difficulties with the experimental setup.
    3. in parallel with 2, do EEG studies on various primates, looking for similar deja vu signatures
    4. repeat 1 and 2 to the limit of ethics, using drugs etc
    5. repeat 2, with primates
    6. repeat 4, with primates
    7. do much more invasive, intensive studies of primates to isolate and (if possible) reproduce deja vu brain states (may be necessary to do these experiments somewhere other than the US or western Europe)
     
  20. Sep 27, 2003 #19
    Nereid,

    I think you are misunderstanding the dream/deja vu connection, which is this: sometimes when people experience a Deja Vu it is accompanied by the memory of having seen the situation before in a dream. In other words, the reason why the present, novel situation seems familiar is that the person is suddenly sure he dreamt of himself being in that exact situation sometime prior to it actually happening. Most often the person can't account for why the present situation, which he intellectually knows to be new and unique, seems so uncanily familiar. There is no accompanying "memory" of it having been seen before in a dream.

    For this reason your idea of hooking people up to an EEG and waking them to see if they've had a deja vu dream would be useless because the person wouldn't know if it were later going to "come true" or not. It is only during the deja vu experience itself that a person might feel that the experience was first seen in a dream.

    The other problem is that simple partial seizures only show up on surface EEGs something like 20% of the time. They happen too deeply in the brain to be picked up on the surface. The deja vu EEG readings that have been recorded were picked up with depth implanted electrodes. They would never do an invasive procedure like that on anyone except someone who was being worked up for brain surgery.

    -Zooby
     
  21. Sep 28, 2003 #20

    Nereid

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    So the only way to test this idea would be to record all dreams, and all future events, make comparisons after the event, and do some statistical analyses?
     
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