Déjà Vu and Epilepsy
When I was 16, I was sitting in class listening to my teacher and I had this odd feeling that I had experienced that exact same moment before. Not just a feeling that I had experienced sitting in class before, because of course I had, but a feeling that the exact same moment had replayed itself from another time in my life. As my epilepsy continued to go untreated, I had more and more of these moments. I would get in fights with my family because I was 100% sure we had picked a movie to watch that we had already seen, even though it had just come out that night.
I was experiencing Déjà Vu.
Déjà Vu is not always related to epilepsy, but it can reflect seizure activity in the brain. According to an article by the University of Pennsylvania, Déjà Vu is particularly common in people who have what is known as Temporal Lobe Epilepsy, which is what I have.
In the brain, the temporal lobe controls memories. Things like long-term memories, events, and facts are all pushed to that area of the brain. Specific parts of the temporal lobe also play a role in recognizing something as ‘familiar’, which is related to Déjà Vu.
Dr. Robert Fisher, an epileptologist at Stanford University has stated that “a seizure in [the temporal lobe] sets off a sensation of familiarity and emotions uncoupled from the real environment. Our ‘rational’ brain tries to make sense of these discordant inputs, which leaves us feeling familiar and unfamiliar all at once.”
A feeling of Déjà Vu can be either an aura (a ‘warning’ before a larger seizure such as a tonic-clonic seizure) or the symptoms of a seizure itself (as Déjà Vu is one of the symptoms of a focal aware seizure).
I have learned that if I am experiencing Déjà Vu, I can’t tell if it’s an aura and is going to progress into a larger seizure or not, so getting myself on the ground and notifying my support team if they’re with me is an important thing to do. Sometimes, nothing happens, and it doesn’t progress into a larger seizure, but I personally would rather be overprepared for an oncoming seizure than underprepared.
Experiencing Déjà Vu can be a scary or confusing thing, but it’s always important to remember it’s just your brain working in an odd way and you're not going through it alone!