Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Deja Vu

I'm not one to base a post on rumor and conjecture (work with me, people), but a son of a neurologist once told me a theory about deja vu that I thought was pretty reasonable, so I'll pass it on. I'm repeating it in layman's terms, and not with any scientific accuracy.

So, we all know what short- and long-term memory is. Short term is "in use" memory - something our brain stores for immediate use, and is generally quickly forgotten (like RAM). Long term memory is the storage of memories that we can recall much later, and is stored for long term use (like hard disc files).

Simon says (yeah, I'm not kidding) that deja vu happens when your neurons misplace a short term memory in a long term memory spot in the temporal lobe. So, instead of filing it as something we are in the process of using, it is instead filed as a long term memory, causing us to feel like we remember the experience from our long term memory, when in fact, it just happened.

I don't know if it's true, but it sounds good. As a "devout" Athiest, Douglas Adams would have appreciated this theory, as it does away with all the hocus pocus, previous life theories, and takes it down to the bare bones. One of my favorite quotes from him goes like this:

A man didn’t understand how televisions work, and was convinced that there must be lots of little men inside the box, manipulating images at high speed. An engineer explained to him about high frequency modulations of the electromagnetic spectrum, about transmitters and receivers, about amplifiers and cathode ray tubes, about scan lines moving across and down a phosphorescent screen. The man listened to the engineer with careful attention, nodding his head at every step of the argument. At the end he pronounced himself satisfied. He really did now understand how televisions work. "But I expect there are just a few little men in there, aren’t there?"
-- Douglas Adams, a parable spoofing creationism that Adams often told, as retold by Richard Dawkins in "Lament for Douglas" (14 May 2001)


At 3:07 PM, Blogger Carmi said...

I was going to post something witty and wise. But then I forgot what I was going to say.

At 9:41 PM, Blogger Retroboy said...

I'm sure I've read this before.....

At 10:15 PM, Blogger Steve said...

I suffer from vujaday: the strange feeling that I've never been anywhere before.

At 10:45 PM, Blogger Diva said...

That is an interesting theory, I'll have to think about it more the next time it happens to me (which seems to be fairly often, I may have some misfiring neurons or something).


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