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Remembrance of things present

india Updated: Jun 12, 2007 00:01 IST

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Seems like you’ve read this editorial before? (And it’s not our commentary of the annual Budget we’re talking about here.) We can assure you that it has nothing to do with our shortage of ideas but everything about something that happened in your brain. Déjà vu — French for ‘already seen’ — is that eerie feeling that you’ve experienced a new situation before. While some TV news channels insist on running a 30-minute programme explaining that déjà vu can be explained by the phenomenon of reincarnation, scientists think otherwise.

One hundred and thirty-one years after French philosopher and ‘psychic’ Émile Boirac first reportedly coined the term in a letter, déjà vu has been sourced to a ‘malfunction’ in the brain. Brainy scientists at the Massachussetts Institute of Technology have found out this week that the phenomenon arises when neurons (nerve cells) in the hippocampus, the seat of memory in the centre of the brain, malfunction. Usually, the hippocampus makes a note of new places and experiences and stores them away for future ready reference. When two experiences seem very similar, the two sets of information tucked away in the hippocampus become blurred and the new experience seems spanking old.

Scientists believe that since they know the molecular and cellular pathway based on their experimental results, they could use those molecular targets to develop a drug to improve the jangling neuron connections. Research could then even lead to the possibility of finding a prescribed cure for neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and losing your car keys. Seems like you’ve read this editorial before? (And it’s not our commentary....)

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