Monday, March 11, 2013

Confabulation: Conservative Memory Disturbance

This reprint of Wikipedia's entry on "Confabulation" may be the last post in our series, "Conservative_Are_Stupid," for a time.


"Confabulation is a memory disturbance that is characterized by verbal statements or actions that inaccurately describe history, background, and present situations.[1] Confabulation is considered 'honest lying,' but is distinct from lying because there is typically no intent to deceive and the individual is unaware that their information is false.[2] Although individuals can present blatantly false information ('fantastic confabulation'), confabulatory information can also be coherent, internally consistent, and relatively normal.[2] Individuals who confabulate are generally very confident about their recollections, despite evidence contradicting its truthfulness.[3] The most known causes of confabulation are traumatic and acquired (e.g., aneurysm, edema) brain damage, and psychiatric or psychological disorders (e.g.,schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, Alzheimer's disease).

"Two distinct types of confabulation are often distinguished: spontaneous and provoked.

"Spontaneous, or primary, confabulations do not occur in response to a cue[4] and seem to be involuntary.[5] Spontaneous confabulation is also relatively rare and may result from the interaction between frontal lobe pathology and organic amnesia, and is more common in cases of dementia.[6]

"Provoked, momentary, or secondary, confabulation represents a normal response to a faulty memory and is common in both amnesia and dementia.[6] Provoked confabulations can become apparent during memory tests.[4] Another distinction found in confabulations is that between verbal and behavioral. Verbal confabulations are spoken false memories and are more common, while behavioral confabulations occur when an individual acts on their false memories.[5] Confabulated memories of all types most often occur in autobiographical memory, and are indicative of a complicated and intricate process that can be led astray at any point during encoding, storage, or recall of a memory.[3] This type of confabulation is commonly seen in Korsakoff's syndrome.[7]

"Characteristic features
"Typically verbal statements but can also be non-verbal gestures or actions.
Can include autobiographical and non-personal information, such as historical facts, fairytales, or other aspects of semantic memory.
The account can be fantastic or coherent.
Both the premise and the details of the account can be false.
The account is usually drawn from the patient’s memory of actual experiences, including past and current thoughts.
The patient is unaware of the accounts’ distortions or inappropriateness, and is not concerned when errors are pointed out.
There is no hidden motivation behind the account.
The patient’s personality structure may play a role in their readiness to confabulate. [2]

"Neurological and Psychological Conditions Associated with Confabulation

"Confabulations are often symptoms of various syndromes and psychopathologies in the adult population including: Korsakoff's syndrome, Alzheimer’s Disease, Schizophrenia, and traumatic brain injury.

"Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome is a neurological disorder typically characterized by years of chronic alcohol abuse and a nutritional thiamine deficiency.[21] Confabulation is one salient symptom of this syndrome.[22][23] A study on confabulation in Korsakoff’s patients found that they are subject to provoked confabulation when prompted with questions pertaining to episodic memory, not semantic memory, and when prompted with questions where the appropriate response would be 'I don’t know.'[24] This suggests that confabulation in these patients is 'domain-specific.' Korsakoff’s patients who confabulate are more likely than healthy adults to falsely recognize distractor words, suggesting that false recognition is a 'confabulatory behavior.'

"Alzheimer’s Disease is a condition with both neurological and psychological components. It is a form of dementia associated with severe frontal lobe dysfunction. Confabulation in individuals with Alzheimer’s is often more spontaneous than it is in other conditions, especially in the advanced stages of the disease. Alzheimer’s patients demonstrate comparable abilities to encode information as healthy elderly adults, suggesting that impairments in encoding are not associated with confabulation.[25] However, as seen in Korsakoff's patients, confabulation in Alzheimer’s patients is higher when prompted with questions investigating episodic memory. Researchers suggest this is due to damage in the posterior cortical regions of the brain, which is a symptom characteristic of Alzheimer’s Disease.

"Schizophrenia is a psychological disorder in which confabulation is sometimes observed. Although confabulation is usually coherent in its presentation, confabulations of schizophrenic patients are often delusional[26] Researchers have noted that these patients tend to make up delusions on the spot which are often fantastic and become increasingly elaborate with questioning.[27] Unlike patients with Korsakoff's and Alzheimer's, patients with schizophrenia are more likely to confabulate when prompted with questions regarding their semantic memories, as opposed to episodic memory prompting.[28] In addition, confabulation does not appear to be related to any memory deficit in schizophrenic patients. This is contrary to most forms of confabulation. Also, confabulations made by schizophrenic patients often do not involve the creation of new information, but instead involve an attempt by the patient to reconstruct actual details of a past event.

"Traumatic brain injury (TBI) can also result in confabulation. Research has shown that patients with damage to the inferior medial frontal lobe confabulate significantly more than patients with damage to the posterior area and healthy controls.[29] This suggests that this region is key in producing confabulatory responses, and that memory deficit is important but not necessary in confabulation. Additionally, research suggests that confabulation can be seen in patients with frontal lobe syndrome, which involves an insult to the frontal lobe as a result of disease or traumatic brain injury (TBI).[30][31] Finally, rupture of the anterior or posterior communicating artery, subarachnoid hemorrhage, and encephalitis are also possible causes of confabulation.[1][32]

"Confidence in False Memories

"Confabulation of events or situations may lead to an eventual acceptance of the confabulated information as true.[45] For instance, people who knowingly lie about a situation may eventually come to believe that their lies are truthful with time.[46] In an interview setting, people are more likely to confabulate in situations in which they are presented false information by another person, as opposed to when they self-generate these falsehoods.[47] Further, people are more likely to accept false information as true when they are interviewed at a later time (after the event in question) than those who are interviewed immediately or soon after the event.[48] Affirmative feedback for confabulated responses is also shown to increase the confabulator’s confidence in their response.[49] For instance, in culprit identification, if a witness falsely identifies a member of a line-up, he will be more confident in his identification if the interviewer provides affirmative feedback. This effect of confirmatory feedback appears to last over time, as witnesses will even remember the confabulated information months later.[50]

"Confabulation Among Normal Subjects

"On rare occasions, confabulation can also be seen in normal subjects.[15] It is currently unclear how completely healthy individuals produce confabulations. It is possible that these individuals are in the process of developing some type of organic condition that is causing their confabulation symptoms. It is not uncommon, however, for the general population to display some very mild symptoms of provoked confabulations. Subtle distortions and intrusions in memory are commonly produced by normal subjects when they remember something poorly."

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As in previous entries on Conservative "Stupidity," we hope that this reprint will provide ammunition for encounters with Conservative Sheeplets on this and other sites.  Not surprisingly, Sheeplets start sputtering when asked, "This may be a long shot, but have professionals linked your issues with confabulation with a rupture of the anterior or posterior communicating artery, subarachnoid hemorrhage, or encephalitis?  They're all possible causes of your condition."

At best, you'll provide others with a bit of laughter - at worst, you'll find yourself banned from some Conservative can't go wrong!


"There's only two people in your life you should lie to... the police and your girlfriend."

Jack Nicholson


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