Intrusions and provoked and spontaneous confabulations on memory tests in Korsakoff's syndrome

Yvonne C M Rensen, Joukje M Oosterman, Serge J W Walvoort, Paul A T M Eling, Roy P C Kessels
Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology 2017, 39 (2): 101-111

INTRODUCTION: Intrusions on verbal memory tests have been used as an index for clinical confabulation. Severe memory impairments in combination with executive dysfunction have been suggested to be the underlying mechanism of confabulation, but to date, this relation is unclear. The aim of this study was (a) to examine the relation between (different types of) intrusions and confabulations in a large sample of confabulating patients with Korsakoff's syndrome (KS) and (b) to investigate whether different measures of executive functioning and memory performance are related to provoked and spontaneous confabulation.

METHOD: The Dutch version of the California Verbal Learning Test (CVLT) and various executive function and memory tests were administered to a group of 51 confabulating patients with KS. Professional caregivers rated the severity of provoked and spontaneous confabulation behavior of the patients using the Nijmegen-Venray Confabulation List-20 (NVCL-20).

RESULTS: The total number of intrusions on the CVLT was not related to either provoked or spontaneous confabulation scores. None of the CVLT intrusion scores correlated significantly with any of the confabulation scores, but we did find small-to-medium, positive correlations between unrelated intrusions and both provoked confabulations and spontaneous confabulation. Provoked confabulation behavior was associated with executive dysfunction and poorer memory performances. Spontaneous confabulation was not related to performance on measures of executive function and memory.

CONCLUSIONS: The total number of intrusions on verbal memory tests and clinical confabulations appear to be different phenomena. Only unrelated intrusions produced on the CVLT might possibly be related to confabulations. The production of provoked, but not spontaneous, confabulation is associated with executive dysfunction and memory deficits.

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