Can you lose your memory for just a few hours?


Chris J. Hanson was getting ready to depart his beachfront resort on the final day of trip when his thoughts began malfunctioning in a uncommon and mysterious manner.

As he placed on a shirt, he informed his spouse, Bobbi-Jo, that he wished they’d spent extra time on the balcony.

She was puzzled. He’d just been on the balcony, and so they had eaten a number of meals there.

“I don’t want to scare you,” he informed her, “but I don’t remember any of that.”

He did scare her. Afraid he was having a stroke, she rushed him to a Miami, Florida, hospital.

Every 15 seconds or so, he’d ask the identical questions.

“Where am I?” “Where’s my phone?” “Where’s my wallet?”

He remembered who he was. He remembered Bobbi-Jo and their youngsters.

But the final six months had been a clean, and he wasn’t making any new reminiscences.

He teared up when Bobbi-Jo reminded him that he had purchased tickets to an Ultimate Fighting Championship occasion after they returned dwelling to Colorado Springs, Colorado.

He didn’t do not forget that both, a signal that one thing was very unsuitable.

Eight hours later, a physician requested whether or not Hanson knew why he was within the hospital.

For the primary time, he mentioned sure.

A few minutes later, the physician requested once more.

Hanson not solely remembered why he was there, he remembered that the physician had requested earlier than.

His earlier reminiscences got here again just as abruptly as they’d vanished, however Hanson, now 51, nonetheless doesn’t keep in mind what occurred throughout these eight hours.

A captivating situation

Hanson couldn’t recall that he and his wife had spent a lot of time on their beachfront hotel balcony in Miami due to an episode of TGA. — Filepic (used for illustration purposes only)Hanson couldn’t recall that he and his spouse had spent a lot of time on their beachfront resort balcony in Miami because of an episode of TGA. — Filepic (used for illustration functions solely)

Hanson had a basic case of transient world amnesia (TGA), an enigmatic type of memory loss that docs nonetheless can’t clarify 65 years after it was first described.

It was uncommon sufficient – about 5 to 10 of each 100,000 individuals are identified with it every year – that Hanson’s physician introduced some youthful colleagues to crowd round his mattress and ask him questions.

“They were extremely fascinated,” Hanson mentioned.

Doctors will inform you that it’s hardly ever good to be a fascinating affected person.

TGA although, is an exception to that rule, which is likely one of the issues that neurologists like about it.

“I don’t have bad news for these patients, and neurologists often have bad news,” mentioned Mayo Clinic neurologist Dr Nathan Young.

TGA doesn’t appear to be a harbinger of worse issues to return, and solely 5% to fifteen% of sufferers have a second episode, mentioned Dr Young, who has studied recurrent circumstances.

The unhealthy information is that it’s nonetheless very distressing for sufferers and households.

“It’s always a frightening, disturbing event,” he mentioned.

Possible triggers

Among the potential triggers are stress and powerful feelings.

A current examine from a German educational medical centre discovered a rise in transient amnesia circumstances within the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The researchers thought stress may be accountable.

Between Feb 1 and May 15, 2020, the hospital noticed 16 sufferers with the situation, in contrast with a median of 9.7 throughout that point interval within the earlier 10 years.

Dr Ralph Werner, one of many docs concerned within the examine, mentioned the numbers returned to baseline this yr, probably as a result of the pandemic now not appeared so scary.

Neurologists within the United States mentioned they weren’t conscious of comparable analysis on this nation.

Beyond stress, TGA is related to a unusual assortment of potential triggers:

  • Sudden immersion in chilly or scorching water
  • Strenuous exercise
  • Sexual intercourse
  • Some medical procedures, and
  • Mild head trauma.

It is extra widespread in individuals over 50 – the typical age is about 62 – and infrequently begins within the morning.

People who ‑ like Hanson ‑ have a historical past of migraines, are at increased threat.

Epileptic seizures may cause shorter memory lapses known as transient epileptic amnesia.

While individuals with strokes often have bodily signs as properly, some with amnesia are literally having strokes, so it’s essential to see a physician.

Physicians must rule out different neurologic issues earlier than selecting the extra reassuring TGA prognosis.

Docs wish to know extra

Sudden immersion in cold water – like these swimmers getting into icy water for the traditional New Year’s swim in a lake near Vilnius, Lithuania – is one of the triggers for TGA. — APSudden immersion in chilly water – like these swimmers entering into icy water for the normal New Year’s swim in a lake close to Vilnius, Lithuania – is likely one of the triggers for TGA. — AP

The hallmark of TGA is repeated questions.

What am I doing right here? Where was I going?

This could sound a lot like dementia, however dementia sufferers have broader issues with their pondering that develop regularly.

People with TGA know their names and their addresses.

They can nonetheless competently carry out abilities comparable to driving a automobile, hitting a golf ball, cooking or doing math issues.

They just can’t keep in mind what occurred a few minutes in the past.

“They just sort of lose the context of that moment,” mentioned Thomas Jefferson University Hospital neurologist Dr Diana Tzeng.

The memory modifications often final 4 to 6 hours, Dr Young mentioned, however can proceed for as much as 24 hours.

It’s variable, however memory often returns in a “piecemeal fashion”, he mentioned.

The situation is difficult to check as a result of it’s so uncommon and doesn’t final lengthy.

Patients are sometimes seen in emergency departments and might not be seen by docs who concentrate on cognition till after the signs are gone.

Doctors mentioned it’s a disgrace they don’t know extra, as a result of TGA might assist them higher perceive different memory issues.

“Potentially, these cases illuminate how the mind works and how memory works,” mentioned Johns Hopkins University neurologist Dr Barry Gordon.

He mentioned it’s not clear to him whether or not TGA is a single entity.

Drs Tzeng and Young additionally mentioned it might stem from a number of causes, together with non permanent modifications in blood movement to the mind, poor oxygenation of elements of the mind related to memory, or disruption {of electrical} pathways.

Dr Gordon suspects that it has to do with the hippocampus, a a part of the mind that decides whether or not so as to add one thing to long-term memory as a result of it’s fascinating, essential or emotionally significant.

There’s loads of stuff it decides you most likely received’t want once more, comparable to most of what you noticed du- ring 20 miles (32km) of monotonous freeway driving. He thinks of TGA as a “pathological switching off of that saving mechanism”.

Sometimes, sufferers with TGA seem to have had very tiny strokes close to the hippocampus that heal shortly, he and Dr Tzeng mentioned.

But individuals with related signs shouldn’t have any seen mind harm.

Although most sufferers recuperate properly, the emotional fallout might be important.

TGA is “very disorienting”, Dr Tzeng mentioned. “Those few hours of time are lost to them.

“It’s like a black box…. It can be very difficult to accept.”

A life-changing expertise

Richard Holl began the Transient Global Amnesia Project, which collects details about the situation, in 2017.

The Marathon, New York, native had an episode that yr that lasted 27 hours.

He has not had a recurrence, however nonetheless has short-term memory issues, which he and the docs mentioned is uncommon.

He mentioned that TGA sufferers are all the time afraid that it’s going to occur once more.

“We say it’s not life-threatening, it’s life-changing.”

Hanson would agree.

For months, he tried to recollect what occurred when he had TGA.

“When I got back from the hospital, it really messed with my head,” he mentioned.

“When you lose eight hours of your memory, there’s this nagging feeling you’re missing something and your brain won’t stop trying to remember.”

He now not trusted his memory to work.

“I would wake up in the middle of the night, and I would purposely recount the past day to make sure I could remember,” he mentioned.

“That went on for quite a while.”

Because of the migraines and his stress degree, his docs had been apprehensive that he could possibly be in danger for one other bout.

They informed him he wanted to determine the best way to cut back his stress.

About a yr after he had TGA, Hanson’s spouse inspired him to attempt fly fishing.

He beloved it.

It was calming and quiet. There was usually no cell service.

Hanson discovered to dwell within the second as he tried to outwit the fish.

His new sport made such a distinction that he made a film about it – and TGA.

He known as it: The Day I Disremembered. – By Stacey Burling/The Philadelphia Inquirer/Tribune News Service

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