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Dental patient developed '90-minute memory'

Posted on Friday, 10 July, 2015 | Comment icon 7 comments

A simple visit to the dentist resulted in a lifetime of forgetfulness. Image Credit: CC 2.0 Andrew Mason
A British soldier who went to the dentist in Germany became afflicted with a strange memory condition.
Known only by his first name William, the serviceman had been stationed in Germany in 2005 when, upon visiting a dentist to undergo a routine root canal, he went in to a trance-like state and had to be taken to hospital where he ended up staying for three days.

When doctors examined him it became clear that he had somehow lost the ability to form long term memories and could only recall things that had happened within the last 90 minutes or so.

Hoping that his condition would improve over time he was sent back home to recuperate but after a further ten years of struggling with his memory his ability to remember never improved.

"He wakes up believing that he should still be in the military, stationed abroad," the case report authors wrote. "Every day he thinks it is the day of the dental appointment."

To help guide him through each day his wife now leaves a series of notes for him on his smartphone explaining what had happened to him in his life over the last decade.

Doctors have long struggled to explain what had caused such a peculiar affliction however clinical psychologist Dr. Gerald H. Burgess believes that something may have gone wrong with the process of "consolidation" in which the brain produces new proteins to help cement long-term memories.

"Crucially, 90 minutes would be about the right time for this consolidation to take place - just as William starts to forget the details of the event," he wrote. "Rather than losing its printing press, like Molaison (another famous case), William's brain seems to have simply run out of ink."

Source: | Comments (7)

Tags: Memory, Amnesia

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by MJNYC on 10 July, 2015, 16:35
OMG, almost like 50 First Dates. How terrible for him! I didn't even think that was possible.
Comment icon #2 Posted by omerta on 10 July, 2015, 17:52
No! I'm getting a root canal done next week. I always knew the dentist was evil!
Comment icon #3 Posted by Sir Smoke aLot on 11 July, 2015, 9:18
I was always scared of them dentists but now... I just can't continue going there lol
Comment icon #4 Posted by lightly on 11 July, 2015, 13:30
I was always scared of them dentists but now... I just can't continue going there lol no worries, you probably won't remember it.
Comment icon #5 Posted by McFakename on 13 July, 2015, 22:50
Well... guess I can drop the dental insurance as I'm NEVER going back
Comment icon #6 Posted by Paranomali on 15 October, 2015, 22:59
Wow this is messed up. I am already kinda fearful of the dentist, this just seals it haha
Comment icon #7 Posted by KNash on 2 November, 2015, 3:47
Ok. He has anterograde amnesia which is the inability to form new memories past the a certain date (i.e. his root canal). I'm really interested in knowing if he was allergic to novacaine or possibly whatever form of anesthesia was used. Turns out that anterograde amnesia can be a complication of a benzodiazepine (tranquilizer) that is sometimes found in anesthesia. Fascinating. Never thought about this.

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