Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Confabulation and the Brain, 7

Several studies have found that confabulation is rather common among individuals who have not been diagnosed with any type of brain disorder. The book Brain Fiction includes a review of expanding scientific research that provides evidence and conclusions that confabulation is not something restricted to psychiatric patients or to those who fantasize. The evidence shows that human beings produce a body of narratives or stories every day. Many of these stories are thought to help explain how they feel, the reason they made a specific decision, the underlying prompts for judgments they made, why they exhibited the behavior they did and the reason they took the actions they did, and so on. Typically, these stories are a combination of fact and fiction, although the individuals involved believe that what they said was completely true. It gives one pause and perhaps can provide some impetus for becoming more aware of and evaluating the stories one tells the self and others.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Confabulation and the Brain, 6

In the book Brain Fiction: Self-Deception and the Riddle of Confabulation, the author indicated that confabulation is not just a deficit of memory; it is something anybody might do, even people with perfectly fine memories and healthy brains. For example, children and many adults confabulate when encouraged to talk about things of which they have no actual knowledge or when trying to make something seem less important or more important. Eyewitnesses can be influenced by suggestive inquiries to confabulate. The evidence shows that many of the stories human beings produce on a daily basis to explain how they feel, the reason they did something, or the process used to come up with a decision, are confabulations, mixtures of fact and fiction that the individuals believe to be completely true. The study conclusions might be an impetus to realize that probably everyone at some time or another uses confabulation and it is possible they do not even realize what they are doing, believing whatever they utter is the absolute truth.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Confabulation and the Brain, 5

PsychCentral identifies two types of confabulation: spontaneous and provoked. A provoked confabulation is when a patient invents an untrue story in response to a question and tends to occur quite commonly among patients with amnesia or dementia. On the other hand, a spontaneous confabulation tends to occur less commonly and involves the telling of an untrue story with no apparent motivation. Sometimes confabulations are verbal and only involve talking about false memories. Behavioral confabulations, on the other hand, occur when the patient acts upon his or her erroneous beliefs. Most studies on confabulation have focused on symptoms related to underlying problems or pathologies that impact memory. Recently, attention is focusing on individuals without identifying underlying problems who exhibit confabulation. More tomorrow.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Confabulation and the Brain, 4

Wikipedia puts it this way:  In psychiatry, confabulation is a memory error defined as the production of fabricated, distorted, or misinterpreted memories about oneself or the world, without the conscious intention to deceive. People who confabulate present incorrect memories ranging from "subtle alterations to bizarre fabrications", and are generally very confident about their recollections, despite evidence to the contrary. The free medical dictionary points out that confabulation involves the unconscious filling in of gaps in memory with fabricated facts and experiences, commonly associated with organic pathology. It differs from lying in that the patient has no intention to deceive and believes the fabricated memories to be real. More tomorrow.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Confabulation and the Brain, 3

There are a couple of key components of confabulation (according to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology).

1.   An individual provides a false response to a question. For example, “What is your favorite vacation spot?” and the answer is “Alaska, of course,” even though they have never even been to Alaska.

2.   The other component is that the individual believes what he or she just said without giving it another thought.

This is different from individuals who tell a lie on purpose and know consciously that they are in fact telling a lie.

Someone without an underlying memory problem tends to say “I don’t know,” if asked a question they either do not know the answer to or can’t remember at the moment. Confabulation involves subconsciously creating a story to cover what they cannot think of.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Confabulation and the Brain, 2

No one specific cause for medical or psychiatric confabulation has been identified although several types of syndromes and disorders may underlie the symptoms, including:

  • Memory disorders, such as Alzheimer’s and other dementias
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Anton’s syndrome, or denial of blindness
  • Capgras syndrome, the belief that an imposter has replaced a loved one
  • Korsakoff syndrome
  • Schizophrenia
  • Split-brain syndrome
  • Aneurysm
 More tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Confabulation and the Brain

Karl Bonhoeffer, a German psychiatrist, is credited with coining the term “confabulation” in 1900 to describe a type of memory loss that negatively impacts an individual’s higher-reasoning ability. Not a disorder in and of itself, confabulation is—in manyt cases—the symptom of an underlying condition that impacts memory accuracy. Although not relegated to one specific cause, it appears that individuals exhibiting confabulation tend to have damage in the frontal lobes of the brain and in the corpus callosum, the largest bridge that connect the two cerebral hemispheres. Confabulation is typically a subconscious strategy used when an individual has a condition that impacts his or her memory. These individuals create stories as a way to hide their memory loss. Although many have the mistaken idea that these people are “telling lies,” the individuals themselves are unaware that they are not telling the truth. They have no doubt that what they are saying is true, even though others know that the story is false. More tomorrow.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Facial Expressions of Emotion, 2

Researchers initially expected that there were be a great many emotional facial expressions--far more than they actually identified. The results of the study showed, however, 35 separate facial expression that convey emotions across all cultures studied, and only 8 that are used in almost all of the cultures. Happiness or joy turned out to be the most complex or the most varied of all the core emotions—meaning it can be expressed in 17 different ways. The type of happiness is conveyed and expressed by altering the size of one’s smile and the crinkles around one’s eyes. Co-author Martinez reportedly said, “This was delightful to discover because it speaks to the complex nature of happiness.” Anger can be expressed facially in five different ways as can sadness. Fear is expressed in three different ways, while there is only one facial expression needed to express disgust (which may not be a core emotion but an emotional motivator, adding ‘energy’ to a core emotions).

Friday, February 8, 2019

Facial Expressions of Emotion

The results of a study on how emotions were expressed on human faces cross-culturally was published in the journal IEEE Transactions on Affective Computing. Researchers Srinivasan and Martinez studied which and how many cross-cultural and cultural-specific facial expressions people commonly use in real life and not just in a laboratory setting. Their conclusions were based from evaluating over 7 million images collected from 31 different countries. They found that of the 16,384 possible facial configurations that people can theoretically produce, only 35 are successfully used to transmit emotive information across cultures, and only 8 within a smaller number of cultures. They also found that the number of expressions used to communicate each emotion is also different. They identified one emotion that appears to be the most complex of all. More next time.

Thursday, February 7, 2019


Neurogenesis is the term for forming new cells. The belief has been that neurogenesis in the brain occurs primarily during gestation and perhaps for a short period of time after birth. Because neurons, thinking cells, do not typically multiply and divide as do other cells such as the glial cells, the assumption has been that you have only the neuronal cells you had a birth (or very early in life) and will never make any more. Research has revealed, however, that it is possible for the adult human brain to form new cells. Studies point to evidence that this occurs primarily in the hippocampus, the brain’s “search engine.” According to Dan Cossins, above-ground nuclear bomb tests carried out more than 50 years ago resulted in elevated atmospheric levels of the radioactive carbon-14 isotope (14C), which steadily declined over time. In a study published in Cell, researchers used measurements of 14C concentration in the DNA of brain cells from deceased patients to determine the neurons’ age, and demonstrated that there is substantial adult neurogenesis in the human hippocampus.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Human Brain Size

At birth, the average infant has a brain that weighs about three-fourths of a pound. In adulthood, the average human brain clocks in at about three pounds (slightly more for the average male brain). Compare that with the brain of a sperm whale that can average 18 pounds, or that of an elephant the weight about 11 pounds. It is also interesting to view the human brain in terms of relative size in relation to body size. The human brain is estimated to be about three percent of the person’s body mass (although it uses about twenty percent of all the energy generated). The shrew’s brain accounts for about ten percent of its body mass. The Encephalization Quotient is a measure of brain size relative to body size. According to Michael Balter, the cat has an Encephalization Quotient of about one, chimps register about two and a half, dolphins around five, and humans at nearly 7.5. And then there are rats and rabbits that are way down on the Encephalization Quotient at 0.4 or below.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Brain Lateralization

Brain function studies indicate that almost every major function tends to be lateralized. This does not mean that the specific function only utilizes one hemisphere or one quadrant, rather it means that often one portion of the brain “takes the lead” or “directs” the function. There is also some evidence that human beings have areas of brain giftedness, meaning that some tasks use less energy than others. This has sometimes been over-simplified as being “left-brained or “right-brained,” or “frontal” or “basal.” The efficient and effective use of any brain function really utilizes all parts of the brain working together. As Carl Zimmer has pointed out, lateralization still means the quadrants and hemispheres still work together. They have an intimate working relationship. For example, the left hemisphere contributes aspects of audible speech, decodes sounds that form words, and assists with grammar and syntax. The left hemisphere does not, however, have a monopoly on language processing. The right hemisphere is sensitive to the emotional features of language including accompanying body language, helps form the motions for “Sign language,” and process the pitch and rhythm of speech that help convey intonation and stress. It’s a delicate dance that requires both hemispheric partners collaborating together (unless an entire hemisphere is lost during early childhood, in which case one hemisphere is able to develop and produce all the functions of both hemispheres).

Monday, February 4, 2019

Brain Injuries

You only have one brain and, so far, there are no replacements. Consequently, in terms of brain injuries, safety strategies involving prevention—insofar as it is possible to do so—is the best policy. The long-term consequences and one’s ability to ability to recover from the damage, depends upon a number of factors. This may include a person’s age, level of brain-body health, how severe the injury is, and where it is located in the brain. Examples of injuries can include strokes, aneurysms, tumors, concussions, and skull fractures that may tear the meningeal coverings of the brain along with blood vessels. There is good news. The brain has some plasticity. According to, brain plasticity means that even after more serious brain injury, such as stroke, research indicates that—especially with the help of therapy—the brain may be capable of developing new connections and “reroute” function through healthy areas."

Friday, February 1, 2019

Dehydration & the Interstitium

You may recall that estimates are that the human body resembles the ratio of water and solids on Planet Earth, in that approximately 75 percent of the human body is fluid and 25 percent involves solid matter. Dehydration alters this ratio toward solid material, which is not good for health and longevity. Some studies have estimated that the average American over the age of 55 is “dehydrated” and does not drink sufficient amounts of water on a daily basis to “fund” all the needs for fluids in the brain and body. Seeing that interstitial fluid may account for 20 percent of the fluid in the human body, it will be interesting to follow research to determine what impact dehydration has on the Interstitium. Because Interstitium contains fluid-filled compartments, and since interstitial fluid appears to create lymph fluid, hydration may be critically important to this “body organ” or groups of tissues.