Jamais vu

If you have read my blog before, you would know that I’ve written about déjà vu and presque vu in the past (I’d highly recommend reading those posts if you haven’t). However, there is a third “vu” that people might not be aware of; jamais vu.

Key facts

  • Jamais vu is the sensation of something familiar suddenly becoming strange and foreign, despite its familiarity.
  • Jamais vu comes from the French, “never seen”, which describes the person feeling as if they’ve never seen or experienced a familiar stimulus.
  • The best example of this is where a word is repeated over and over again until that word suddenly seems strange. This leads to people questioning whether the word is even a word. Try it now! Say the word orange 25 times and you’ll start to lose all familiarity with the word. That feeling is known as jamais vu.

What’s going on inside my brain?

Okay. We know the feeling this phenomenon gives us, and we know how it can be started. But what is going on inside the brain to make this all possible? The answer lies in neuron firing.

When we say words, certain neurons in our brain fire, like those which control mouth muscle movement, or word memory. Jamais vu occurs when the neurons are continuously fired due to repeating a word, to the point where they are over stimulated. This can lead to a kind of refractory period where the neurons can’t be stimulated anymore and it’s THIS, that creates the unfamiliarity. The brain doesn’t recognise the word because  the neurons that are associated with it cannot be fired anymore.

This a great explanation, as it also explains why after a while, the word becomes normal again and jamais vu subsides; the neurons have had a chance to recover and can fire normally again.


Despite not being as well known and déjà vu, jamais vu is something we can all relate to, and is fascinating to learn about. Stay tuned for more interesting things in the next few weeks. I hope to see you soon!

Many thanks for taking the time to read my post. I hope you learned something,



Stevens, M. (Vsauce). (2011, November 05). What is Déjà Vu? Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CSf8i8bHIns


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