British researchers are embarking on what they're calling the world's first study of chronic deja vu, a condition where people can recite details of situations or people they've never before encountered. One retired electrical engineer who complained to his family doctor that he had an awful sensation of deja vu was told to go to a memory clinic."He said, 'Well there's no point. I've already been before', " says Dr. Chris Moulin, a psychologist and memory researcher at the University of Leeds.Except he hadn't.Another woman stopped playing tennis in the firm, but mistaken, belief she was playing the same rallies over and over again.Another man insisted he'd already been to his friend's funeral.The phenomenon, which may affect one in 200 people with memory problems, is unlike the fleeting, eerie feeling people get from time to time that they've experienced something before, and that they know what's going to happen next.Instead, chronic deja vu sufferers are constantly overcome by the sensation something new has happened before. Depression is common, and some sufferers are initially misdiagnosed with epilepsy or labelled "delusional" and put on anti-psychotic drugs.Social interactions become impossible, Dr. Moulin says, because people think they've met everyone before, "which means they're overly trusting of people, and possibly inappropriately friendly."Since word of his study was published last month in a University of Leeds newsletter, Dr. Moulin has been inundated with e-mails from people convinced they have chronic deja vu; one Canadian woman said it described her mother perfectly. Another thought she was going mad until she read the story online.Dr. Moulin says studying deja vu can help better understand the relationship between feelings and consciousness and states associated with memory and how memory functions.One patient who travelled to Europe for the first time complained he'd been everywhere before."They're really quite striking. The most important thing for us, scientifically, is they're not confused by mundane, repetitive events. It's almost like the more novel and the more striking the event is, the more likely they are to get these sensations of deja vu," says Dr. Moulin. That suggests they're not making it up.
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