Clouding of consciousness, also known as mental fog, is a conventional medical term describing an abnormality in consciousness. The sufferer experiences a subjective sensation of mental clouding described as feeling "foggy".
Terms such as Clouding of consciousness or mental fog are too vague for most practical requirements. More specifically, the condition is an abnormality in the "overall level" of consciousness that is mild and less severe than a stupor or coma. Thus, some authors prefer the more objective term "abnormal level" of consciousness over the subjective term "clouding" of consciousness. In the 1817 German treatise Verdunkelung des Bewusstseins, Greiner first coined and pioneered the term clouding of consciousness as the main pathophysiological feature of delirium.
Although the condition is extremely common,conventional medicine practitioners are not well equipped to recognize it and tend to mislabel it or "psychologize" it. Alternative medicine practitioners popularly use the term "brain fog"; however there is no mention as to whether they intend the term to be synonymous with the conventional medical term clouding of consciousness.
The precise pathophysiology is poorly understood. However, the general conceptual model is that of a part of the brain regulating the "overall level" of the conciousness part of the brain. Various etiologies can "funnel" in on and disturb this common regulating part of the brain, which in turn disturbs the "overall level" of consciousness. The key idea here is an abnormality in the "overall level" of consciousness, referred to also as wakefulness or arousal, as opposed to an abnormality in specific or focal parts of consciousness. The contents of the consciousness, referred to also as cognition, are thus disturbed in a "diffused" or "widespread" or "global" manner as opposed to a specific manner. Therefore, performance on virtually any cognitive task may be affected; although this may be difficult to detect and measure precisely. The list of possible etiologies is said to be "endless". But some examples are:
Hepatic failure, which allows toxins from bacteria in the intestine to go into the bloodstream and poison the brain.
Heavy metals including mercury.
Medications of all kinds.
Vitamin B1 deficiency.
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