Functional activity changes in memory and emotional systems of healthy subjects with déjà vu

Salvatore Nigro, Salvatore M. Cavalli, Antonio Cerasa, Roberta Riccelli, Francesco Fortunato, Maria Giovanna Bianco, Iolanda Martino, Carmelina Chiriaco, Maria Grazia Vaccaro, Aldo Quattrone, Antonio Gambardella, Angelo Labate

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Déjà vu (DV) is a fascinating and mysterious human experience that has attracted interest from psychologists and neuroscientists for over a century. In recent years, several studies have been conducted to unravel the psychological and neurological correlates of this phenomenon. However, the neural mechanisms underlying the DV experience in benign manifestations are still poorly understood. Thirty-three healthy volunteers completed an extensive neuropsychiatric and neuropsychological battery including personality evaluation. The presence of DV was assessed with the Inventory for Deja vu Experiences Assessment. Participants underwent episodic memory learning test, and 2 days later during event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), they are asked to rate old and new pictures as a novel, moderately/very familiar, or recollected. We identified 18 subjects with DV (DV +) and 15 without DV (DV −) matched for demographical, neuropsychological, and personality characteristics. At a behavioral level, no significant difference was detected in the episodic memory tasks between DV + and DV −. Functional magnetic resonance imaging analysis revealed that DV +, independently from task conditions, were characterized by increased activity of the bilateral insula coupled with reduced activation in the right parahippocampal, both hippocampi, superior/middle temporal gyri, thalami, caudate nuclei, and superior frontal gyri with respect to DV −. Our study demonstrates that individuals who experienced DV are not characterized by different performance underlying familiarity/recollection memory processes. However, fMRI results provide evidence that the physiological DV experience is associated with the employment of different neural responses of brain regions involved in memory and emotional processes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8-14
Number of pages7
JournalEpilepsy and Behavior
Publication statusPublished - Aug 1 2019


  • Déjà vu
  • Familiarity
  • Hippocampus
  • Insula
  • Recollection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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