What are conspiracies and why do they occur?
Within the range of cognitive processes that human beings possess, memory is one of the most studied. Still, it remains a complex issue. To understand what are conspiracies it is important to know that originate from the distortion of some memories.
Memories in memory are not exact rearrangements of events. Everyone can remember an event differently and ensure that this is how it happened. It is a deformation of reality due to the loss of information.
A clear example occurs in the elderly who present major neurocognitive disorder (senile dementia). They can assure that they have experienced something in a completely different way than the real events were.
Types and classification
Confabulations are a difficult cognitive phenomenon to typify, taking into account that they can take various forms. However, there are 5 criteria to classify these cognitive disorders. Let's see it.
1. Spontaneous conspiracies
This first type of conspiracy lasts the least. Se deals with fanciful ideas that are affirmed as real facts for the person, in a blunt way. They usually occur in patients with Korsakoff syndrome.
2. Caused conspiracies
In this case, what happens is that memory fails to evoke something precisely. It is common in amnesic patients. Something similar happens when a healthy person tries to retain some information in a forced way for long periods of time.
For example, studying for an exam verbatim can cause recall memory failures. At the time of presenting the evaluation, some concepts can be exchanged and affirmed as true, even if they do not correspond to reality.
3. Simple provoked intrusions
These distortions appear when a person is forced to recall information in detail. Let's imagine for a moment that we forget the shopping list and try to remember what it said. Unconsciously we could buy something that was not listed, but that we remember in that way.
4. Momentary conspiracies
This type of memory failure is the most common in conspiracy. It is a little fantastic tale that can be perfectly credible.
However, it is easy to spot. For example, when a patient describes his plans in detail, but it is clear that they are not achievable. It is common in nursing homes, when some older adults say they will visit their childhood or teenage friends, even though they may have passed away.
5. Fantastic conspiracies
This type of conspiracy is the most intense, due to the high detachment of reality that they present. As its name indicates, these are fantastic stories that are only credible to the patient. These reality disturbances are common in psychotic and paralytic dementia patients.
This classification of 5 types that we have seen is proposed by Kopelman and is the most accurate to determine the intensity and frequency of conspiracies. Another method that has been used over the years is the one proposed by Schnider, which consists of 4 criteria:
- Contents: establishing how credible the story can be by limits that go from true to false.
- How they appear: spontaneous or provoked.
- Lands in which it manifests itself: episodic, autobiographical, general semantic, or personal semantic.
- Clinical syndrome in which they are presented.
Read: Anatomy of dementia: what is life like for an insane patient?
What symptoms are related to conspiracies?
The symptoms of conspiracies vary depending on the underlying disorder that is causing them. For example, in Alzheimer's, the most characteristic signs are cognitive deficit, mental decay and memory problems.
Let's see what others can appear according to the neurological disorder:
- Dementia: memory impairment with nervousness.
- Schizophrenia: thought disorder, acoustic hallucinations, paranoia.
- Korsakoff syndrome: recent memory loss, mania, and repetitive behaviors.
- Asomatognosia: inability to integrate the parts of the body or recognize them, false sensations associated with the loss of a member.
Possible causes of conspiracies
Causes of memory lapses caused by conspiracies in patients they are the result of damage to the frontal area of the brain. In particular, the affected area is the anterior basal area, in which the orbitofrontal and ventromedial areas are found.
There are three theories that attempt to explain the reasons for the conspiracies. We review what they are below. It is important to know that these hypotheses come from a neuropsychological perspective.
1. Memory dysfunction
In this theory it is stated that conspiracies are a form of amnesia. The main postulate holds that recall memory glitches are a way to make sense of incomplete memories that can be retrieved by patients. This hypothesis is well approved.
2. Executive dysfunction
On the other hand, the executive dysfunction theory states that when there are severe mental limitations in planning and setting specific goals, memory failures occur that give rise to conspiracies.
3. Dual hypothesis
In this hypothesis, the approach does not rule out any of the previous postulates and maintains that conspiracies are due to a deficit in executive processes (higher functions of consciousness), in addition to memory failures.
Discover: Rivastigmine in the treatment of dementia
How can it be treated?
Despite the fact that confabulations are considered a non-treatable sequela, there is an approach capable of improving the quality of life of patients who confab after having suffered a brain injury. It is a neuropsychological procedure that is based on confrontation as a means of cognitive stimulation.
This treatment was designed by researchers from the University of Granada. It consists of showing patients a series of images in sequence that may vary in content; then they are asked to remember what they have seen. At the moment of remembering the conspiracies take place and that is when the specialists interpellate.
Patients are emphasized that the memory they claim to be true is not true, and the images are shown to them again, at the same time as it is explained that their memory is faulty. In neuropsychology this process is called feedback. After 9 sessions you can expect an improvement.
What to do if I know someone who is conspiring?
In case of knowing a person who may be presenting some kind of conspiracy, the most appropriate is Don't bluntly insist that you are wrong. Let us remember that for them it is a real event. We must show empathy and avoid generating stress.
The next thing should be to assist with a specialist who can assess it and determine the intensity of the damage to establish the way forward. Some patients stop conspiring after a while and do not require hospitalization.
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