Summer. You are on the beach with your family, you are commenting on a recent event while playing a game of cards, when suddenly… “I have already lived this moment”. We all know that the feeling of reliving a specific event is called déjà vu. But what would it be like to live constantly with this impression? This is what happens to those suffering from Louis Bar syndrome, which is named after the first patient who was diagnosed.
Before going into the details of this disorder, it is necessary to explain in detail what a déjà vu is, why it is called that, how it occurs and whether it is pathological or not. Let’s find out about the Louis Bar syndrome in this article.
Before the Louis Bar syndrome… what is déjà vu?
The term déjà vu (from the French “already seen”) is used to describe a paramnesia, or anomaly of recognition, for which one has the sensation of reliving an event. We feel a sense of familiarity with situations and events that actually happen for the first time.
This term was first used in 1876 by the French philosopher Émile Boirac. He wrote to the Revue philosophique de la France et de l’étranger in response to a reader who claimed to recall certain episodes; Boirac replied that he himself had felt the same sensation: J’ai déjà vu ce que je vois (I have already seen what I am experiencing).
To accurately describe the phenomenon of déjà vu , however, he thought the psychologist Edward B. Tichener, which speaks to us of the brief vision of an object or a situation even before the brain has finished to “build” a perception of that experience. Therefore, a partial perception is created which is manifested with a false feeling of familiarity.
However, it will be necessary to wait until 1896 before the term déjà vu is made official thanks to the French psychiatrist Francois-Léon Arnaud. Arnaud presents the patient Louis case to the medico-psychological society.
Discovering Louis Bar Syndrome
Louis Bar was an army officer released from duty due to the development of some strange symptoms: he confused the present with the past and had the constant feeling of reliving endlessly moments that had happened years or months ago.
Louis was admitted to the Casa della Salute in Vanves, where Doctor Francois-Léon Arnaud worked. Once in the facility, he claimed to have been there before. Not only that, he claimed to also feel the same sensations. He was even convinced that the doctor was pretending not to know him.
Despite numerous evidence that this was Louis’ first time entering the facility, he continued to claim to lead “two parallel lives,” which repeated over and over again.
From non-pathological déjà vu to Louis Bar syndrome
The déjà vu is an experience normal: about two-thirds of the world population has experienced at least once. Yet chronic déjà vu is abnormal and is often associated with neurological damage. The symptoms Louis Bar accused, in fact, seemed to be due to a nervous system disease he contracted in Vietnam.
Arnaud provides a simple, but effective, distinction between a normal deja vu and a déjà vu pathological: the deja vu in healthy people is occurs infrequently and is temporary, it is aware that this is an illusion. Instead, it is to be considered pathological when there is a real belief that the episode has already happened.
Analyzing Louis’s case today, perhaps the most correct diagnosis is not that of déjà vu , as this term refers to a relatively normal experience. More likely, Louis Bar’s symptoms were attributable to a type of confabulation, namely the retrieval of false memories to fill memory gaps caused by amnesia.
A phenomenon still not entirely clear, but more and more defined
Confabulation and déjà vu are located in two distinct brain areas. Indeed, it seems that déjà vu involves the medial temporal lobe, while confabulation the frontal lobe. Still, some studies claim to have located the former in the insula, an area that manages sensitivity and emotions.
However, it is necessary to investigate through neuroimaging and the possibility of being able to provoke a déjà vu within a laboratory. It sounds complicated, but given the speed with which science advances, perhaps the answer may come sooner than you think. Until then, we wish you to experience only déjà vu associated with happy moments.