Confabulation is the spontaneous production of false memories. Confabulation typically occurs due to brain damage or health conditions that affect the brain, such as dementia.

People who experience confabulation may create memories of events that have never happened. Confabulation can be a symptomatic manifestation of dementia.

The false memories that people may create can vary from mundane activities, such as remembering having a steak for lunch when in reality it was soup, to more elaborate or eccentric memories, such as that of being a pirate or a king.

This article will explain confabulation in dementia, its stages and signs, its causes, and how people with dementia and their families can find the support they may need.

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People with dementia may display several symptoms of confusion or altered perception of reality. Confabulation is an example of this. It occurs when a person with dementia creates new memories of things that never actually happened, or they alter memories of events that occur in their day-to-day life.

Confabulation is a symptom linked not only to dementia but also to several other brain illnesses, including Alzheimer’s disease and brain injury.

When people confabulate, they may tell stories that have some truth in them, and some parts of these stories may make sense. However, people with dementia can also create stories and memories that have no basis in reality and make little sense.

Learn more about dementia.

Confabulation is a sign of the early stages of dementia. Confabulation is significantly more common in dementia than in other illnesses that can affect a person’s cognitive functions, such as Alzheimer’s disease and brain tumors or injuries.

People may display two different types of confabulation:

  • Semantic confabulation: A person creates false statements linked to their knowledge of commonly known facts.
  • Episodic confabulation: This refers to the creation of false statements and memories associated with personal experiences or events that may have happened in the past or personal programs for the future.

While confabulation can happen spontaneously, asking questions to a person with dementia may trigger what doctors refer to as provoked confabulation. This may occur when a person needs to fill memory gaps when being asked a question or to complete a test or a specific task.

Several signs may suggest a person is experiencing confabulation. When confabulating, people do not attempt to lie or deceive the person they are talking with. People who confabulate honestly think what they are saying is correct and have no intention of lying.

People who confabulate are unaware that a specific memory is false, and they typically do not seem concerned when a person points out their errors.

The memories of a person who has dementia and is confabulating may seem highly unrealistic or incoherent, but this is not always the case. People typically create new memories from events and experiences they had in the past. So, in some cases, their stories can be completely plausible and coherent.

Confabulation typically occurs as a result of brain damage or disease. While there is not a specific area of the brain that is accountable for confabulation, damage to the frontal and medial temporal lobes can play a significant role in the onset of this condition.

However, due to the complexity of brain functions, more research is necessary, as doctors do not currently know the exact causes of the creation of false memories.

Confabulation is different from lying. The person who confabulates has no intent to mislead anyone or give them wrong information, as they are not aware that the information they are giving is false.

Confabulation is a memory disturbance that makes people fabricate a distorted or misinterpreted vision or memory of themselves or the world without having the conscious intention to mislead.

While people who confabulate are unaware of the inaccuracy of their memories, their family members and friends may become frustrated or distressed.

If a person is not aware of their loved one’s illness, they may think their loved one is lying to them. As confabulation is an early sign of dementia, it may occur before a person receives a diagnosis.

While confabulation may be confusing, it can sometimes help people with dementia to cope with their current reality and fill gaps in their memory that could otherwise be difficult or frightening to deal with. Confabulation is a way the mind tries to make sense of the surrounding world when a brain illness causes memory problems.

Currently, there is no cure for dementia and confabulation. This is because it is usually difficult to identify the underlying cause of confabulation.

While arguing about the validity of the memories of people with dementia is typically not very effective, psychotherapeutic treatment, such as reality orientation therapy (ROT) or cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), may help people with confabulation become more conscious of the inaccuracies in their memory.

If a person notices any signs of confabulation, they may consider contacting a doctor for further investigation of their potential symptoms of dementia. Doctors can recommend the most appropriate treatment to manage and slow the progress of this condition.

People with dementia and their families can find support from doctors and several organizations, including:

People can also use free services, such as BenefitsCheckUp or, to find federal and state benefit programs that may help them save money and get access to resources that can help them get access to care and support.

Confabulation refers to the unintentional creation of false memories. It is a common early symptom of dementia. However, confabulation can occur due to any brain illness or injury. Confabulation causes people with dementia to say things that are untrue or inaccurate without them being aware.

Currently, there is no cure for confabulation related to dementia. Treatment mainly aims to support the person with the condition in performing their day-to-day activities.

Doctors specializing in memory loss may also help people with dementia and their loved ones understand their symptoms and become more aware of what kind of memory issues they are experiencing.