Skip to main content

Confabulation in schizophrenia: A neuropsychological study

  • E. LORENTE-ROVIRA (a1), J.L. SANTOS-GÓMEZ (a2), M. MORO (a3), J.M. VILLAGRÁN (a4) and P.J. MCKENNA (a5)...

Confabulation has been documented in schizophrenia, but its neuropsychological correlates appear to be different from those of confabulation in neurological disease states. Forty-five schizophrenic patients and 37 controls were administered a task requiring them to recall fables. They also underwent testing with a range of memory and executive tasks. The patients with schizophrenia produced significantly more confabulations than the controls. After correcting for multiple comparisons, confabulation was not significantly associated with memory impairment, and was associated with impairment on only one of eight executive measures, the Brixton Test. Confabulation scores were also associated with impairment on two semantic memory tests. Confabulation was correlated with intrusion errors in recall, but not false positive errors in a recognition task. The findings suggest that confabulation in schizophrenia is unrelated to the episodic memory impairment seen in the disorder. However, the association with a circumscribed deficit in executive function could be consistent with a defective strategic retrieval account of confabulation similar to that of Moscovitch and co-workers, interacting with defective semantic memory. (JINS, 2010, 16, 1018–1026.)

Corresponding author
*Correspondence and reprint requests to: E. Lorente-Rovira, Centro de Salud Mental de la Malvarrosa, Avda. Malvarrosa, 10, 46011, Valencia, Spain. E-mail:
Hide All
Baddeley A.D. (1990). Human memory. London: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Baddeley A.D., & Wilson B. (1988). Frontal amnesia and the dysexecutive syndrome. Brain and Cognition, 7, 212230.
Benedet M.J., & Alejandre M.A. (1998). Test de Aprendizaje Verbal España-Complutense (TAVEC). TEA. Publicaciones de Psicología Aplicada.
Benjamini Y., & Yekutieli D. (2001). The control of the false discovery rate in multiple testing under dependency. Annals of Statistics, 29, 11651188.
Blyler C.R., Gold J.M., Iannone V.N., & Buchanan R.W. (2000). Short form of the WAIS-III for use with patients with schizophrenia. Schizophrenia Research, 46, 209215.
Bozeat S., Lambon Ralph M.A., Patterson K., Garrard P., & Hodges J.R. (2000). Non-verbal semantic impairment in semantic dementia. Neuropsychologia, 38, 12071215.
Burgess P.W., & Shallice T. (1996). Confabulation and the control recollection. Memory, 4, 359411.
Burgess P.W., & Shallice T. (1997). The Hayling and Brixton Tests. Bury St Edmunds, England: Thames Valley Company Limited.
Collins A.M., & Quillian M.R. (1969). Retrieval time from semantic memory. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behaviour, 8, 240247.
Cunningham J.M., Pliskin N.H., Cassisi J.E., Tsang B., & Rao S.M. (1997). Relationship between confabulation and measures of memory and executive function. Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology, 19, 867877.
Dab S., Claes T., Morais J., & Shallice T. (1999). Confabulation with a selective descriptor process impairment. Cognitive Neuropsychology, 16, 215242.
Dab S., Morais J., & Frith C. (2004). Comprehension, encoding, and monitoring in the production of confabulation in memory: A study with schizophrenic patients. Cognitive Neuropsychiatry, 9, 153182.
Delbecq-Derouesné J., Beauvois M.F., & Shallice T. (1990). Preserved recall versus impaired recognition. A case study. Brain, 113, 10451074.
DeLuca J. (1993). Predicting neurobehavioral patterns following anterior communicating artery. Cortex, 29, 639647.
DeLuca J. (2000). A cognitive neuroscience perspective on confabulation. Neuropsychoanalysis, 2, 119132.
Doughty O.J., & Done D.J. (2009). Is semantic memory impaired in schizophrenia? A systematic review and meta-analysis of 91 studies. Cognitive Neuropsychiatry, 14, 473509.
Dyer F.N., & Severance L.J. (1973). Stroop interference with successive presentations of separate incongruent words and colors. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 98, 438439.
Fischer R.S., Alexander M.P., D’Esposito M., & Otto R. (1995). Neuropsychological and neuroanatomical correlates of confabulation. Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology, 17, 2028.
Gilboa A., Alain C., Stuss D.T., Melo B., Miller S., & Moscovitch M. (2006). Mechanisms of spontaneous confabulations: A strategic retrieval account. Brain, 129, 13991414.
Gilboa A., & Moscovitch M. (2002). The cognitive neuroscience of confabulation: A review and model. In Baddeley A.D., Kopelman M.D., & Wilson B.A. (Eds.), Handbook of memory disorders (2nd ed., pp. 315342). Chichester: Wiley.
Glowinski R., Payman V., & Frencham K. (2008). Confabulation: A spontaneous and fantastic review. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 42, 932940.
Hashimoto R., Tanaka Y., & Nakano I. (2000). Amnesic confabulatory syndrome after focal basal forebrain damage. Neurology, 54, 978980.
Heinrichs R.W., & Zakzanis K.K. (1998). Neurocognitive deficit in schizophrenia: A quantitative review of the evidence. Neuropsychology, 12, 426445.
Kopelman M.D. (1987). Two types of confabulation. Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry, 50, 14821487.
Kraepelin E. (1913). Dementia Praecox and Paraphrenia (trans. R.M. Barclay, 1919). Edinburgh: Livingstone.
Kramer S., Bryan K.L., & Frith C.D. (1998). “Confabulation” in narrative discourse by schizophrenic patients. International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders, 33(Suppl.), 202207.
Laws K.R., Humber S.A., Ramsey D.J., & McCarthy R.A. (1995). Probing sensory and associative semantics for animals and objects in normal subjects. Memory, 3, 397408.
Lorente-Rovira E., Pomarol-Clotet E., McCarthy R.A., Berrios G.E., & McKenna P.J. (2007). Confabulation in schizophrenia and its relationship to clinical and neuropsychological features of the disorder. Psychological Medicine, 3, 14031412.
McKenna P.J. (2007). Schizophrenia and related syndromes (2nd ed.). Hove: Routledge.
McKenna P.J., Lorente-Rovira E., & Berrios G.E. (2009). Confabulation as a psychiatric symptom. In Hirstein W. (Ed.), Confabulation: Views from neuroscience, psychiatry, psychology and philosophy (pp. 159172). New York: Oxford University Press.
McKenna P.J., Ornstein T., & Baddeley A.D. (2002). Schizophrenia. In Baddeley A.D., Kopelman M.D., & Wilson B.A. (Ed.), The handbook of memory disorders (pp. 413435). New York: John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Mercer B., Wapner W., Gardner H., & Benson D.F. (1977). A study of confabulation. Archives of Neurology, 34, 429433.
Moscovitch M. (1989). Confabulation and the frontal systems: Strategic versus associative retrieval in neuropsychological theories of memory. In Roediger H.L. & Craik F.I.M. (Eds.), Varieties of memory and consciousness: Essays in honor of Endel Tulving (pp. 133160). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Moscovitch M. (1992). Memory and working-with-memory: A component process model based on modules and central systems. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 4, 257267.
Moscovitch M., & Melo B. (1997). Strategic retrieval and the frontal lobes: Evidence from confabulation and amnesia. Neuropsychologia, 35, 10171034.
Nathaniel-James D.A., Foong J., & Frith C.D. (1996). The mechanisms of confabulation in schizophrenia. Neurocase, 2, 475483.
Nathaniel-James D.A., & Frith C.D. (1996). Confabulation in schizophrenia: Evidence of a new form? Psychological Medicine, 26, 391399.
Reichenberg A., & Harvey P.D. (2007). Neuropsychological impairments in schizophrenia: Integration of performance-based and brain imaging findings. Psychological Bulletin, 133, 833858.
Reitan R.M., & Wolfson D. (1993). The Halstead-Reitan neuropsychological test battery: Theory and clinical applications (2nd ed.). Tucson, AZ: Neuropsychological Press.
Salazar-Fraile J., Tabarés-Seisdedos R., Selva-Vera G., Balanzá-Martinez V., Martinez-Arán A., Catalán J., et al. . (2004). Recall and recognition confabulation in psychotic and bipolar disorders: Evidence for two different types without unitary mechanisms. Comprehensive Psychiatry, 45, 281288.
Schnider A. (2008). The confabulating mind. How the brain creates reality. New York: Oxford University Press.
Simpson J., & Done D.J. (2002). Elasticity and confabulation in schizophrenic delusions. Psychological Medicine, 32, 451458.
Stuss D.T., Alexander M.P., Lieberman A., & Levine H. (1978). An extraordinary form of confabulation. Neurology, 28, 11661172.
Turner M.S., Cipolotti L., Yousry T.A., & Shallice T. (2008). Confabulation: Damage to a specific inferior medial prefrontal system. Cortex, 44, 637648.
Wilson B.A., Alderman N., Burgess P.W., Emslie H.C. & Evans J.J. (1996). The behavioural assessment of the dysexecutive syndrome. Flempton, Bury St Edmunds: Thames Valley Test Company.
Wing J.K., Cooper J.E., & Sartorius N. (1974). The measurement and classification of psychiatric symptoms. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society
  • ISSN: 1355-6177
  • EISSN: 1469-7661
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-the-international-neuropsychological-society
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 2
Total number of PDF views: 18 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 193 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 23rd November 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.