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Medical Tunnel Dèjá vû experiences?

  1. Jun 26, 2010 #1
    "Tunnel" Dèjá vû experiences?

    All right, we all have dèjá vû experiences - Sudden flashes of familiarity, "remembering" premonitions, and so on.

    But I have a variant of this - I fairly frequently experience dèjá vû experiences stacked upon eachother. Let's say I see a specific scene at home - Simply things arranged in a specific, ordinary matter, and someone saying something ordinary, and I suddenly have a flash of "I've experienced having experienced having experienced having experienced this before!". The flahses can go many layers down; I've had experiences where I've felt I've had five-six dèjá vû experiences "stacked" upon eachother, and I usually feel as though I've seen the scene, which can be in both a very familiar or very unfamiliar environments, in a dream, while daydreaming, or something similar (presumably, that's something my brain makes up during the experience).

    Does anyone have dèjá vû experiences of this fashion? It feels a bit similar to false awakenings (dreaming that you're waking up) to me, something I also have dozens of at times.
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  3. Jun 28, 2010 #2
    Re: "Tunnel" Dèjá vû experiences?

    The "layered" nature of deja vu is not unusual, and usually occurs when whatever activity in the brain that causes this effect is still "ticking" while you become introspective as to the nature of the immediate experience. You should be aware that any neurological event such as this is generally harmless, but may I ask how often you experience this, and is the frequency of these events increasing?
  4. Jun 28, 2010 #3
    Re: "Tunnel" Dèjá vû experiences?

    zoobyshoe PM:d me about this and we discussed it a bit.

    It happens maybe twice-thrice a month, and it's not disturbing me.

    I concluded that if it is some irregular neurological activity it's probably a bieffect of Gabapentin, which I eat for neuropathic joint pain. I've had some seizure-like bieffects from it like extreme stuttering when I've taken the full dose (I usually only take 400 mg a day but I can take up to 1200).

    However, it actually made me think of something else which is quite important; My sister did have temporal lobe epilepsy as a kid (which can cause some strange experiences). Which I haven't told my psychiatrist (For the curious kin I'm bipolar). And I should.
  5. Jun 28, 2010 #4
    Re: "Tunnel" Dèjá vû experiences?

    Ahhh Gabapentin/Neurontin... that is some amazing stuff. Good for raising the seizure threshold, anxiety, and neuropathic pain. That would definitely be a possible cause, and as long as the frequency is not increasing I wouldn't be concerned at all. Enjoy the oddity of the human mind, and maybe use a dictaphone and "stream of consciousness" what you're thinking and feeling for the sake of personal research and fun. I would be interested to see if there are common themes for one.

    I am sorry that you have this pain, but I'm glad that something as benign as Gabapentin is useful in alleviating it.
  6. Jun 28, 2010 #5
    Re: "Tunnel" Dèjá vû experiences?

    Hah, I'll give that a try some time.

    Yeah, the neuropathic joint pain isn't that bad, but it's a lot worse than any other pain, for some reason, it's like it sears through everything. But Gabapentin does an impressive job at keeping it down.
  7. Jun 28, 2010 #6
    Re: "Tunnel" Dèjá vû experiences?

    Well, if you do it, I'd love to hear the results, whenever that is. Neuropathic pain is generally considered second only to bone-pain, but if you respond to Gabapentin now, you probably will for the rest of your life. It is an impressive medication. I am sorry that you have to bear this kind of experience however, but you seem to be... well... tough and motivated.
  8. Jun 29, 2010 #7
    Re: "Tunnel" Dèjá vû experiences?

    How on earth did you know this? It probably took me a thousand deja vu's before I realized that the overwhelming feeling of familiarity was generated from the inside and was simply becoming erroneously associated with whatever I happened to be paying attention to, be it the external world or internal, introspective matters. Just as you say, when you have a deja vu, and are thinking about it, another deja vu will cause you to say "My God! I had that deja vu before!" Several in a row and you have the "stacks" of them, tubbablubba refers to.

    One assumes, and has to assume, that "familiarity" is a property of the situation or thought in question. It took me the longest time to realize that "familiarity" is an experience generated in the brain, that it can be generated erroneously, and once generated erroneously, it will 'stick' to anything you happen to be paying attention to.
  9. Jun 29, 2010 #8
    Re: "Tunnel" Dèjá vû experiences?

    Any answer other than my professional designation would boil down to: "I'm a smarty pants". :wink: I focus on the confluence of neurobiology, and psychology when considering such matters, and that immediately leads to the introspective process as the root of these layers. Well, that or we're somehow aware of temporal anomalies we're trapped in, at random intervals, which I doubt.

    The lens through which you view a given problem will sometimes aid, and sometimes hamper you in achieving these kinds of insights. I've read the Synesthesia thread, and I think you're time in understanding this is probably a fluke, you are also a "smarty pants". :smile: Now, if we could link this to some kind of disturbance in the DMN (Default Mode Network) or a more specific region, then we're in the realm of Dr. Sacks, and other giants. Alas...
  10. Jun 30, 2010 #9
    Re: "Tunnel" Dèjá vû experiences?

    When I started having chronic, daily deja vu's 20 years ago or so, I had no idea what they were, or, what my brain did. I thought the brain was the organ of thinking, and had something to do with moving the muscles also. I figured I was either the only person alive who realized we were living life over and over again in a loop, or that I had gone completely mad. Eventually I went to a shrink and he confirmed I was nuts. However, he didn't have a clue as to what diagnosis fit. I was shunted to about 10 or 11 other shrinks, none of whom had ever heard of chronic deja vu's, but all of whom were willing to try out a new psychiatric diagnosis on me and to prescribe all kinds of powerful drugs.

    In the mean time I started figuring there was something fishy about this powerful familiarity. When you listen to a record over and over again each replaying does not become more powerful an experience. Instead, you get sicker and sicker of the song and/or immune to it. Authentic familiarity breeds contempt, not overwhelm. It began to occur to me that these experiences were too powerful to be authentic repetitions.

    A couple years later I discovered by complete accident that deja vus are simple partial seizures. Cytowic mentions this in passing in his book, The Man Who Tasted Shapes. I picked it up from the New Books shelf at the library, attracted by the weird title and a look at the first couple of pages. That chance mention sent me to the UCSD medical library on a long binge of research of temporal lobe epilepsy. Neurologists have known deja vu's are simple partial seizures since, like, the 1880's, but this information has never been disseminated to the public or to psychiatrists, apparently. The majority who have deja vu's don't have dozens, or hundreds, a day like I did. Some do, though. I am personally aware of two fellow sufferers and have read about others.

    At some point I saw an EEG printout of a man having a deja vu (depth implanted electrodes, not surface EEG) and the sight of the moderate waves accelerating and crescendo-ing to 10 times the frequency and amplitude suddenly completely explained the incredible power of the experience, why it seemed so strong each and every time. As I like to tell people, no matter how many I have, when I have another one I am not at liberty to question that I have lived through the moment before: the feeling that I have is too strong and convincing. Seeing that EEG explained why.

    Anyway, I take it you have had these 'stacked' deja vu's yourself? You seem to understand the experience and I've found I can't get someone whose never had a deja vu to remotely understand what the problem is.
  11. Jun 30, 2010 #10
    Re: "Tunnel" Dèjá vû experiences?

    I've only had the experience you describe a few times in my life, but to me it just... makes sense, and follows what I know about neurobiology. You've definitely experienced the strong, or "clinically significant" end of the spectrum related to what sounds like a mild psychomotor epilepsy (to use the obsolete terminology). I think people have the same issues understanding the experienced of hallucination, which I have not had, but again, understand. It isn't a matter of someone projecting an image which fools you, but a creation of the brain, and therefore very compelling. To be blunt, people just aren't built for very accurate reality testing when our own blue-boxes go a bit haywire.
  12. Jun 30, 2010 #11


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    Re: "Tunnel" Dèjá vû experiences?

    Tackling the feeling of recognition or familiarity - the aha! feeling - was where I really got started in neurology. Cognitive approaches to mind were all about "dry" rational computation, yet here at the heart of what matters is a "wet" feeling that underpins everything. The science of the time could not begin to explain it, so pretended it did not exist.

    I'm not sure that calling deja vu a partial seizure gets you that far, even if deja vu is one of the symptoms.

    I always viewed deja vu through the lens of the orienting response, the match-mismatch circuit, and suchlke neurological system-level constructs (though temporal lobe/parahippocampus/hippocaampus a key part of such circuitry).

    And then you have the failures of recognition - the prosopagnosia syndromes.

    And better yet, Capgras

    On the stacked nature of deja vu, I used to have simple deja vu, these days it is stacked because of that attempt to introspect carefully on the experience as it is happening. You get that hall of mirrors effect of thinking you have watched yourself watch this deja vu before. The experience, and the introspection, are both falsely being recognised as familiar - hey, I know you guys from before don't I?

    One curiosity is that I have never come across any triggers for deja vu. Although the experience does seem to be clustered (it happens only rarely for me anyway, maybe a flurry every few years).

    Checking wiki, I see that deja vu is still poorly explained. Again, I think that even more interesting than this false feeling of recognition and familiarity is the fact that the brain is always making a judgement of familiar/unfamiliar (or equally, predicted/unpredicted). And it would be that circuitry you would focus on.

    Jeffrey Gray of the IoP did a classic paper on this.
  13. Jul 6, 2010 #12
    Re: "Tunnel" Dèjá vû experiences?

    I'll just throw out that deja vu is definitely a symptom of some partial seizures, but that doesn't mean that deja vu is exclusively (or even usually) the result of this activity. What you talk about in your post is definitely attributed as a cause of this experience more than seizure activity. I think it's fair to say that in most if not all cases there is increased activity throughout the cerebral cortex during deja vu, but that's just saying that the engine is revving, not why or how it does this. You are right that deja vu is poorly understood, but it seems to be that there is more than one kind of deja vu experience, and some are almost certainly the recognition-driven equivalent of paraidolia.
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