Capgra’s Delusion : Living with Impostors

Sometimes, you see things – possibly the things you long for more than anything else, or perhaps the thing you fear the most. But in reality, you haven’t. Turns out, it is nothing but your brain playing tricks with you. It’s just your delusion.

WHAT IS DELUSION ?

Quoting the definition – “It is a false belief brought about without appropriate external stimulation and inconsistent with the individual’s own knowledge and experience”. In simple term, delusional patient see things in places where normal people don’t. It’s all in his head & is unreal.

Among many type of delusions yet discovered by the medical science is one of the rare kind, known with the name of Capgra’s Delusion.

CAPGRA’S DELUSION

Capgra’s Delusion is a rare kind of delusional disorder in which the patient seems to be perfectly normal physically and mentally but he is delusional about the people and things around him for being just an impostor of who or what they really are.

An example: He sees his mother and is assured that the lady in front of him looks exactly like his mother but refuses to accept her as his real mother and claims her being just an imposter of his mother, pretending to be his mother.

Its not just the loved ones they get delusional about. They often tend to “impostorify“:

  • The house they have been living in
  • Other inanimate objects like chair, book, lamp, etc.
  • Their pet
  • And amazingly, sometimes even their real self.
Interesting thing about this delusion is, when the patient talks to the people he knew on the phone, e.g. his mother, he recognizes her normally and is assured about the lady behind the phone being his mother and not an imposter of his mother like he did when he saw her. So, concluding that the delusion is only visual and there is no problem with the hearing perception of the patient, a theory has been proposed on how Capgra’s Delusion acts.

A short cartoon about the illness:

AN EXPLANATION THEORY FOR CAPGRA’S DELUSION

According to the theory of visual-emotional disconnection:

When we look at the object or some faces, the message reaches the visual centre of the brain via visual pathway then it gets relayed to amygdala which is the gateway to the limbic system containing the emotional centre of the brain. So, when those objects or faces are familiar to us, an emotional response is shown or even other emotional response like fear is reflexively shown by us when we see a lion. But, in the patient with Capgra’s delusion, the message reaches upto the visual cortex in the brain so he recognizes the person in front of him being his mother evoking the previous memories, but the fibers that help relaying information from the visual cortex to amygdala is damaged as a result of any head injuries or accidents causing no emotional response towards the person or object in front of him due to which he thinks the object or person to be an impostor as he doesn’t feel any emotional attachment with them. Owing to an intact connection between the hearing cortex and the amygdala, the delusion doesn’t occur when talking to a person in phone.

COMMONLY ASSOCIATED WITH CAPGRA’S DELUSION ARE

About the Author

jems_glory@hotmail.com'
Jemesh Singh MaharJan
Intern Doctor at KIST Medical College

1 Comment on "Capgra’s Delusion : Living with Impostors"

  1. drmilanb@mindcares.com' Dr Milan Balakrishnan | November 7, 2013 at 10:37 am | Reply

    I explain it to students as a reverse of prosapagnosia where you can’t recognise faces..here you can recognise face but not feel emotional connection

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