Could it be?
Do blind people actually experience most of the same sensations as sighted people?
The implications are quite far-reaching if this is indeed true.
It could mean that blind people are actually…normal.
Case study contradicts theory of optical pathway delay
Updated: 1:21 p.m. CT Nov 28, 2006
Déjà vu is commonly described as the feeling of having seen something
before. In fact, some scientists have long thought that one type of the
phenomenon occurs when the image of a scene through one eye arrives at the
brain before the image from the other eye.
But researchers have now found a blind man who experiences déjà vu through
smell, hearing and touch.
The man had déjà vu when undoing a jacket zipper while hearing a particular
piece of music, and also while hearing a snatch of conversation while
holding a plate in the school dining hall.
The discovery is reported in the December issue of the journal Brain and
“It is the first time this has been reported in scientific literature,”
said Akira O’Connor of the University of Leeds. “It?s useful because it
provides a concrete case study which contradicts the theory of optical
pathway delay. Eventually we would like to talk to more blind people,
though there?s no reason to believe this man?s experiences are abnormal or
different to those of others.”
O’Connor said déjà vu is such a convincing sensation that it feels almost
inexplicable to the person who has it.
“And because it feels so subjective, psychology, in striving for
objectivity, has tended to shy away from it,” he said. “But psychologists
have gone some way to illuminating things like the ‘tip of my tongue’
sensation when you can?t think of a particular word. We just wanted to get
to the same sort of understanding for déjà vu.”
O’Connor and his colleague Chris Moulin also study déjà vu through
hypnosis. They believe the experience is caused when an area of the brain
that deals with familiarity gets disrupted.
In one experiment they do, students are asked to remember words, then
hypnotized to make them forget. When shown the same word again, they
describe feeling as if they’ve seen it before. About half of test subjects
say the sensation is similar to déjà vu, and about half of those say it is
definitely déjà vu.
“It would be really neat to do some neuro-imaging on people during genuine
spontaneous déjà vu experiences,” O’Conner said, “but it?s very difficult
to get them to have them on demand.”