Epilepsy Talk

Déjà Vu or Prescience? | August 1, 2018

Think of it as knowing something from the past…or feeling a premonition of the future.

Those who have experienced the déjà vu feeling describe it as an overwhelming sense of familiarity, with something that shouldn’t be familiar at all.

Those who experience prescience, feel they have the ability to see into the future in some way.

Déjà vu – Every day is groundhog day!

The term “déjà vu” means, literally, “already seen”.

Déjà vu has been firmly associated with temporal lobe epilepsy.

Reportedly, déjà vu can occur just prior to a temporal lobe seizure as an aura. 

But you can experience déjà vu during the actual seizure activity or in the moments between seizures.

Take the neurological circuitry of the hippocampus, a region of the brain where new memories are formed.

Neuroscientists know memories are actually groups of brain cells linked by especially strong chemical connections; recalling a memory involves finding and activating a specific group.

It’s also this circuit, the scientists are convinced, that explains déjà vu.

Every so often, the circuit misfires, and a new experience that’s merely similar to an older one, seems identical.

It doesn’t happen very often to most people. But, some people with epilepsy have this experience all the time.


Because seizures involve random firing of neurons in the temporal lobes, which include the hippocampus, and that could scramble the circuit.

In a person with chronic déjà vu this circuit is either overactive or permanently switched on, creating memories where none exist.

When novel events are processed, they are accompanied by a strong feeling of remembering.

So, you remember specific details about something that never actually occurred.

Prescience – Crystal ball, crystal ball…

Well, let’s see…

We’ve been described as mutants, aliens, crazies.

But in fact, only one study to date has been done on prescience.

And that study concludes that prescience is an aura of temporal lobe epilepsy.

The study is written up in PubMed and basically says: all of the patients tested had similar experiences.

They described the phenomenon as “knowing” what was going to happen in the immediate future.

The experience was distinct from déjà vu and other psychic experiences.

And all of the patients “probably” had temporal lobe epilepsy.

Only one other description of prescience as an ictal feature was found.

The conclusion was: Prescience can occur as an ictal feature of temporal lobe epilepsy and represents a previously under-reported psychic phenomenon.

Obviously, there a bit more studying to be done.

But speaking from personal experience, prescience is downright scary.

In one way, it’s a gift.

I warned a friend not to go on a skiing trip.

Happily, he didn’t.

But there was a serious car accident and the passenger seat of the car (where he would have been sitting) got totaled.

That’s the good news.

Other times, it’s a curse.

I’ve had the prescience to foresee events (usually unhappy), but I was helpless to do anything.

Because even though I “knew” they were going to happen, I didn’t know when.

So, given the choice, I’d take déjà vu over prescience any day.

What about you?

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  1. I have temporal lobe epilepsy and have experienced both deja vu and Jamais vu (never seen)

    When things that should be familiar to me, are unfamiliar, such as my own front door, or a particular tree I see on a regular walk.

    This also nearly always happens when I pass from bright sunlight into a shadow, even though my seizures are not usually light sensitive.

    Both deja vu and jamais vu are a good indication to me that a seizure may be due, so for that alone I’m thankful for the warning.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Shelly — August 1, 2018 @ 9:26 AM

  2. Phylis, I have had this happen many times. I have left temporal lobe epilepsy. The scariest was when a dear elderly friend told me that she didn’t want to go visit her friends in Lebanon. I told her I didn’t think she should go, because I knew something bad would happen. She said her husband said it would be the last time she would see her family there, so she went. She died there! There were issues getting the body back to the U.S. It was just horrible! By the time she was able to get back, the funeral was during one of those minus-zero degree days. It was insane! They weren’t going to let the body come back because her passport had expired!

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by megambon2164 — August 1, 2018 @ 9:28 AM

    • OMG! How terrible.


      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — August 1, 2018 @ 10:07 AM

    • How’s a dead woman expected to renew her expired passport?
      Don’t these bureaucrats have any brain at all?
      The whole grief & ordeal must had been too painful for the family to bear.

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by BahreNegash Eritrea — August 2, 2018 @ 6:17 AM

  3. I have temporal seizures on both sides.I don’t have prescience but I have to not talk about my past are look at pictures of me as a child because my father sexual abused me as a child from age 5 till age 14.And when I have to deal with things that really very tragic my brain can not handle it so i will have bad seizures plus I have seizures clusters

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Angela carter — August 1, 2018 @ 9:46 AM

    • It sounds like you suffer from PTSD from your childhood abuse.

      All types of abuse — sexual, physical, and emotional (including verbal abuse and witnessing domestic violence) raise the risk of depression, anxiety and epilepsy-like symptoms.

      Basically, abuse releases a cascade of stress hormones which produces a lasting effect on brain signals.

      Experiments at McLean Hospital, for example, show that patients with a history of abuse are twice as likely to show abnormal electrical activity as non-abused people.


      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — August 1, 2018 @ 10:11 AM

  4. My situation is almost the opposite of this. Is there any significant documentation about the connection of left temporal lobe epilepsy with autobiographical memory loss? My short term memory is fine and I can recall memories for about six months but I am unable to retrieve almost no longer term memories. How can I find out more about this?

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Jo Hogg — August 1, 2018 @ 9:52 AM

    • Sometimes longer term memories from the period prior to the seizure are lost, since these memories may have not been fully integrated into your brain’s memory system.

      Or, if your past was traumatic, you might be suffering from PTSD as a result.

      There are a variety of conditions that can cause either sporadic or degrading memory capabilities.

      Stress, anxiety, and depression can all be significant factors.


      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — August 1, 2018 @ 10:27 AM

  5. A masterpiece! For years, trying to explain this sort
    of thing to a Dr. Dr? When they cannot understand what they are working with, how can they be a Dr.?

    Printed a copy and will take it to the Dr. when I go.
    Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Karen — August 1, 2018 @ 9:02 PM

    • Well, many don’t believe in deja vu or prescience.

      My parents thought I was crazy. (Just one of many epilepsy related reasons.)


      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — August 1, 2018 @ 10:48 PM

  6. About memory; yes. Seems as though mine is almost opposite of the case you were explaining about the long term memory being forgotten. Someone will tell me something, and often within 5 minutes I will have forgotten. Maddening.

    Short term loss is terrible. I find myself having to lay notes all over. Helps some, (provided I remember to write myself a note……………..)

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Karen — August 1, 2018 @ 9:17 PM

  7. thanks for writing about this! I’m in my first year of epilepsy and, sometimes, its a struggle to find the words to explain to other people what happens to me…the closest I have come to that is deja vu…but I knew it was never really that. Prescience is much closer. I know something is happening, and because of experience I know what is happening…but it doesnt feel like I’m repeating something (like deja vu implies). Anyways, thanks for the relevant note 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Chris — August 2, 2018 @ 11:39 PM

  8. Thank you, Phyllis for taking the time to find out all the information that you do. I, and I’m sure many thousands of people, really appreciate it. Kathy

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Kathleen Beebe-zittel — August 4, 2018 @ 1:24 PM

  9. I’ve had these feelings for most of my life.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by GhostWriter — August 7, 2018 @ 4:18 PM

    • Sometimes it’s scary and sometimes it’s like a revelation.

      At least for me.

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — August 7, 2018 @ 5:29 PM

      • Same here. I have not been diagnosed with Epilepsy but I feel I have more than enough evidence throughout the years to admit that it’s likely. Before knowing or realizing this such feelings made me feel very deluded almost and I thought I was psychic or something. You will never know how eye opening and helpful your blog has been to me….

        Liked by 1 person

        Comment by GhostWriter — August 7, 2018 @ 5:32 PM

      • Thanks. I just think it is just a matter of trying to put into words what people are feeling and want to know.

        Liked by 1 person

        Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — August 7, 2018 @ 5:41 PM

      • I’ve been trying to do that for years, trying to put what I’ve felt into words and it is not easy. Sometimes I think it’s impossible.

        Liked by 1 person

        Comment by GhostWriter — August 7, 2018 @ 5:51 PM

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    About the author

    Phylis Feiner Johnson

    Phylis Feiner Johnson

    I've been a professional copywriter for over 35 years. I also had epilepsy for decades. My mission is advocacy; to increase education, awareness and funding for epilepsy research. Together, we can make a huge difference. If not changing the world, at least helping each other, with wisdom, compassion and sharing.

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