Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science




Déjà vu is a uniquely curious experience with which many of us are familiar. The experience can be so transient and unpredictable that it typically subsides, just as quickly as it appeared, before one can engage in any meaningful introspective evaluation. At the core of the experience is an impression of familiarity that co-exists with the feeling that it is inappropriate. Currently, there is no consensus among researchers about which theory can best account for the cognitive and neural mechanisms that underlie the experience. The goal of the current study was to examine déjà vu in temporal-lobe epilepsy (TLE) within the framework of the cognitive dual process-model of recognition memory that distinguishes between familiarity and recollection. It was reasoned that TLE patients with déjà vu should also experience deficits in recognition memory inter-ictally and that the exact nature of these deficits might offer insight into the cognitive mechanisms underlying the pathological, subjective experience of déjà vu associated with their seizures. The particular hypothesis tested was that the memory impairments in TLE patients with déjà vu are selective or most pronounced in the domain of familiarity assessment. Toward this end, two experimental recognition memory tasks derived from the cognitive neuroscience literature were administered to patients with unilateral or bilateral seizure origin. In general, converging evidence from the two tasks administered suggests that unilateral TLE patients with déjà vu do indeed have selective familiarity impairments and intact recollection. However, in bilateral cases deficits were found to be broader and included impairments in recollection as well. Inaccurate feelings of familiarity may represent the functional consequence of seizure activity in a region of the MTL critical for assessing feelings of familiarity. Further, these data hint that the cognitive process responsible for identifying the inappropriateness of the sense of

familiarity during déjà vu may not be recollection, as previously suggested in the literature. Together, the present findings suggest that probing the cognitive correlates of déjà vu in TLE inter-ictally can advance our understanding of mechanisms involved in déjà vu at a time when experimental paradigms to elicit the experience in the cognitive laboratory are still missing.



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