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Confabulations are emotionally charged, but not always for the best

  • ANA BAJO (a1) (a2), SIMON FLEMINGER (a1) (a3) and MICHAEL KOPELMAN (a1)

Abstract

There is disagreement regarding the underlying basis of confabulation and, in particular, whether emotional mechanisms influence the presence or the content of confabulations. In this study, we have examined the emotional content of confabulations and “true” memories given by 24 memory-disordered patients on two autobiographical memory tasks. Two judges made pleasant/neutral/unpleasant ratings. Although many of the “memories” were evaluated as “neutral”, there was an enhanced level of statements rated as having affective content (either pleasant or unpleasant) amongst these patients’ confabulations, compared with their “true” memories. This affective bias was present irrespective of whether patients had suffered focal pathology extending to the ventro-medial frontal cortex (VMFC) or other pathology. There was also a correlation between participants’ self-evaluated mood-states and both true and false memories’ affective content, suggestive of a mood congruency effect in both types of memory. In summary, there was an enhanced tendency to produce memories with affective content (pleasant and unpleasant) amongst confabulations (whether or not there was VMFC pathology). The affective content of both confabulations and true memories produced may relate, in part, to an individual’s current mood-state. (JINS, 2010, 16, 975–983.)

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Corresponding author

*Correspondence and reprint requests to: Ana Bajo, Brain Injury Rehabilitation Unit (BIRU), Edgware Community Hospital, Edgware, MIDDX HA8 0AD United Kingdom. E-mail: ana.bajo@beh-mht.nhs.uk

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