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WebMD: Transient Global Amnesia Is an Experience You’ll Never Forget

WebMD recently interviewed Nancy Sicotte, MD, chair of the Department of Neurology at Cedars-Sinai, about transient global amnesia, a rare condition that causes sudden, temporary short-term memory loss. It is most common in older and middle-aged adults and is sometimes linked to having a history of migraines.

Sicotte, who holds the Women’s Guild Distinguished Chair in Neurology, told WebMD that while the exact cause of transient global amnesia is unclear, it could be triggered by a temporary decrease in oxygen to the hippocampus—the area of the brain that plays a role in forming new memories.

“What we don’t understand is exactly what is happening on a physiological level,” Sicotte said. “There’s a decrease in blood flow, but why?”

She explained that transient global amnesia affects the brain’s ability to form and store new memories as well as access old ones.

“[Transient global amnesia patients] can only hold the world in their brain for five minutes or so,” Sicotte told WebMD. “They’re very confused. The hallmark is repeatedly asking, ‘Where am I? What’s happening? What’s going on?’ They may not recognize somebody they’ve been married to for only two or three years.”

During an episode of transient global amnesia, Sicotte told WebMD, “the machinery our brain uses to make new memories and also access old memories is offline. It’s like a switch goes off. Maybe it’s a protective mechanism.”

While transient global amnesia is considered harmless and is not an indicator or risk factor for stroke or other neurological conditions, experts urge people who experience amnesia to seek immediate medical care.

Click here to read the complete article on WebMD.