Seeing and Believing: Confabulation and Reality

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Does our brain play tricks on us? Michael Gazzaniga, a brain researcher, conducted a study in which hew looked to determine how a lack of control affected how the subjects identified patterns of random stimuli. In short, the study helped us understand that when we lose our sense of control, we search for and establish patterns and relationships which may not exist.In individuals with known brain injuries and those with specific psychiatric diagnoses we call that phenomena "confabulation". Our brains search for meaning to events and, in the absence of being able to formulate an accurate portrayal, we "fill in the blanks".

As we look at individuals who have a brain injury, their deficits in perception may drive their confabulatory response as they interact with the world and attempt to make sense of it. For individuals who are paranoid or obsessive, their troubling perceptions of reality may be better understood as an attempt to regain control. The limits of our ability to perceive what is happening to us, for whatever reason, may be considered "pathological" or "dysfunctional", but, in fact it is just our brain making sense of the world and establishing control and order with the tools that are available to it through our perceptions and interpretations of stimuli.

Salvador Dali, the Surrealist painter, wore various lenses to distort objects and create the visions which served as elements in his paintings. Was he assisting the process of distorting his perceptions to support his creativity or was he engaging in intentional confabulation? Where does creativity end and pathology begin?

Just something to think about.

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