Skip to main content Accessibility help

Confabulation in Alzheimer’s disease and amnesia: A qualitative account and a new taxonomy

  • VALENTINA LA CORTE (a1) (a2), MARA SERRA (a3), EVE ATTALI (a1) (a2), MARIE-FRANÇOISE BOISSÉ (a4) and GIANFRANCO DALLA BARBA (a1) (a2) (a3) (a4)...


Clinical and experimental observation have shown that patients who confabulate, especially but not exclusively when provoked by specific questions, retrieve personal habits, repeated events or over-learned information and mistake them for actually experienced, specific, unique events. Accordingly, the aim of this study is to characterize and quantify the relative contribution of this type of confabulation, which we refer to as Habits Confabulation (HC), to confabulations produced by 10 mild Alzheimer’s disease (AD) patients and 8 confabulating amnesics (CA) of various etiologies. On the Confabulation Battery (Dalla Barba, 1993a, Dalla Barba & Decaix, 2009), a set of questions involving the retrieval of various kinds of semantic and episodic information, patients produced a total of 424 confabulation. HC accounted for 42% and 62% of confabulations in AD patients and CA, respectively. This result indicates that, regardless the clinical diagnosis, the brain pathology or their lesion’s site, confabulation largely reflects the individuals’ tendency to consider habits, routines, and over-learned information as unique episodes. These results are discussed in the framework of the Memory Consciousness and Temporality Theory (Dalla Barba, 2002). (JINS, 2010, 16, 967–974.)


Corresponding author

*Correspondence and reprint requests to: Gianfranco Dalla Barba, INSERM U. 975, Pavillon Claude Bernard, Hôpital de la Salpêtrière, 47, bd de l’Hôpital, 75013 Paris, France. Email:


Hide All
American Psychiatric Association. (1994). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.
Attali, E., De Anna, F., Dubois, B., & Dalla Barba, G. (2009). Confabulation in Alzheimer’s disease: Poor encoding and retrieval of over-learned information. Brain, 132, 204212.
Baddeley, A., & Wilson, B. (1986). Amnesia, autobiographical memory and confabulation. In Rubin, D.C. (Ed.), Autobiographical memory (pp. 225252). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Berlyne, N. (1972). Confabulation. British Journal of Psychiatry, 120, 3139.
Bleuler, E. (1949). Lehrbuch der psychiatrie. Berlin: Springer Verlag.
Bonhoeffer, K. (1904). Der korsakowsche symptomenkoplex in seinen beziehungen zu den verschiedenen krankheitsformen. Allgemeine Zeitung Psychiatrie, 61, 744752.
Burgess, P.W., & McNeil, J.E. (1999). Content-specific confabulation. Cortex, 35, 163182.
Burgess, P.W., & Shallice, T. (1996). Confabulation and the control of recollection. Memory, 4, 359411.
Dalla Barba, G. (1993a). Confabulation: Knowledge and recollective experience. Cognitive Neuropsychology, 10, 120.
Dalla Barba, G. (1993b). Different patterns of confabulation. Cortex, 29, 567581.
Dalla Barba, G. (1999). Confabulation and temporality. In Markowitsch, H. & Nilsson, L.-G. (Eds.), Cognitive neuroscience of memory (pp. 163191). Göttingen: Hogrefe and Huber.
Dalla Barba, G. (2000). Memory, consciousness and temporality: What is retrieved and who exactly is controlling the retrieval? In Tulving, E. (Ed.), Memory and consciousness and the brain: The Tallin conference (pp. 138155). Philadelphia: Psychology Press.
Dalla Barba, G. (2001). Beyond the memory trace paradox and the fallacy of the homunculus: A hypothesis concerning the relation between memory, consciousness and temporality. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 8, 5178.
Dalla Barba, G. (2002). Memory, consciousness and temporality. Boston: Kluwer Academic Publishers.
Dalla Barba, G. (2009). Temporal consciousness and confabulation: Escape from unconscious explanatory idols. In Hirstein, W. (Ed.), Confabulation - Views from neuroscience, psychiatry, psychology and philosophy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Dalla Barba, G., & Boissé, M.-F. (2010). Temporal consciousness an confabulation. Is the medial temporal lobe ’temporal’? Cognitive Neuropsychiatry, 15, 95117.
Dalla Barba, G., Boissé, M.-F., Bartolomeo, P., & Bachoud-Lévi, A.-C. (1997). Confabulation following rupture of posterior communicating artery. Cortex, 33, 563570.
Dalla Barba, G., Cappelletti, Y.J., Signorini, M., & Denes, G. (1997). Confabulation: Remembering “another” past, planning “another” future. Neurocase, 3, 425436.
Dalla Barba, G., & Decaix, C. (2009). “Do you remember what you did on March 13 1985?” A case study of confabulatory hypermnesia. Cortex, 45, 566574.
Flament, J. (1957). La fabulation dans le syndrome de korsakoff d’étiologie traumatique. Considérations cliniques, psychopathologiques et neuropathologiques à propos d’une observation de fabulation à caractère mythopathique. Acta Neurologica Belgica, 57, 119161.
Gilboa, A., Alain, C., Stuss, D.T., Melo, B., & Moscovitch, M. (2006). Mechanism of spontaneous confabulations: A strategic retrieval account. Brain, 129, 13191414.
Kopelman, M.D. (1987). Two types of confabulation. Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry, 50, 14821487.
McKhann, G., Drachman, D., Folstein, M., Katzman, R., Price, D., & Stadlan, E.M. (1984). Clinical diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease: Report of the NINCDS-ADRDA work group under the auspices of the Department of Health and Human Services Task Force on Alzheimer’s Disease. Neurology, 34, 939944.
Metcalf, K., Langdon, R., & Coltheart, M. (2007). Models of confabulation: A critical review and a new framework. Cognitive Neuropsychology, 24, 2347.
Moscovitch, M., & Melo, B. (1997). Strategic retrieval and the frontal lobes: Evidence from confabulation and amnesia. Neuropsychologia, 35, 10171034.
Schnider, A. (2008). The confabulating mind: How the brain creates reality. New York: Oxford University Press.
Stuss, D.T., Alexander, M.P., Lieberman, A., & Levine, H. (1978). An extraordinary form of confabulation. Neurology, 28, 11661172.
Suddendorf, T., & Corballis, M.C. (2007). The evolution of foresight: What is mental time travel, and is it unique to humans? Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 30, 299351.
Talland, G.A. (1961). Confabulation in the Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 132, 361381.
Tulving, E. (1985). Memory and consciousness. Canadian Psychology, 26, 112.
Weinstein, E., & Lyerly, O. (1968). Confabulation following brain injury. Archives of General Psychiatry, 18, 348354.


Confabulation in Alzheimer’s disease and amnesia: A qualitative account and a new taxonomy

  • VALENTINA LA CORTE (a1) (a2), MARA SERRA (a3), EVE ATTALI (a1) (a2), MARIE-FRANÇOISE BOISSÉ (a4) and GIANFRANCO DALLA BARBA (a1) (a2) (a3) (a4)...


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed