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Boffins use hypnosis to induce déjà vu

Boffins use hypnosis to induce déjà vu

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A post graduate student at Leeds University claims to have replicated the phenomenon of déjà vu in the laboratory.

The basic mechanism behind the phenomenon is thought to work as follows:

When it is presented with a scene, the brain runs through two processes. First it checks to see if it has seen or experienced any of the things before. If it has, a second process is triggered in a separate part of the brain which alerts the brain's owner that the scene is familiar.

This sense of familiarity can be triggered in error, leading to a feeling of déjà vu - something that 97 per cent of people report having experienced at some point in their lives.

The Leeds researcher, Akira O'Connor, wanted to use hypnosis to separate the two processes, and see if he could provoke a sense of déjà vu when presenting people with a novel situation, according to New Scientist.

He showed a group of volunteers a set of 24 words. Then the volunteers were hypnotised. While they were in their trance, they were told that when they saw a word in a red box, it would feel familiar but that they wouldn't be sure when they had seen it before. Words in green boxes, meanwhile, would be identified as belonging to the original list of the 24.

Once they were out of their trance, the volunteers were shown another set of 24 words, some from the original list, but others that were new. The words were all framed in various colours, including some in red and some in green.

Of the 18 volunteers, ten reported feeling odd when they saw words that were new and framed in red. Half of those said the sensation was like déjà vu.

This, the researchers say, demonstrates that the two processes can be separated. which could have implications for our understanding of how human memory works.

As yet, the work is not peer reviewed, but O'Connor says that he now plans to write up the study for publication in a journal. ®

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