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Imagine losing your memory for a day. That's what happens to people with transient global amnesia

Stacey Burling, The Philadelphia Inquirer on

Published in Health & Fitness

He said it's not clear to him whether TGA is a single entity. Tzeng and Young also said it could stem from multiple causes, including temporary changes in blood flow to the brain, poor oxygenation of parts of the brain associated with memory, or disruption of electrical pathways.

Gordon suspects that it has to do with the hippocampus, a part of the brain that decides whether to add something to long-term memory because it's interesting, important or emotionally meaningful. There's plenty of stuff it decides you probably won't need again, such as most of what you saw during 20 miles of monotonous highway driving. He thinks of TGA as a "pathological switching off of that saving mechanism."

Sometimes, patients with TGA appear to have had very tiny strokes near the hippocampus that heal quickly, he and Tzeng said. But people with similar symptoms do not have any visible brain damage.

Although most patients recover well, the emotional fallout can be significant.

TGA is "very disorienting," Tzeng said. "Those few hours of time are lost to them. It's like a black box. ... It can be very difficult to accept."

Richard Holl started the Transient Global Amnesia Project, which collects information about the condition, in 2017. The Marathon, N.Y., man had an episode in 2017 that lasted 27 hours. He has not had a recurrence but still has short-term memory problems, which he and the doctors said is unusual.

He said that TGA patients are always afraid that it's going to happen again.

 

"We say it's not life threatening, it's life changing."

Hanson would agree. For months, he tried to remember what happened when he had TGA.

"When I got back from the hospital, it really messed with my head," he said. "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 no longer 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 said. "That went on for quite a while."

Because of the migraines and his stress level, his doctors were worried that he could be at risk for another bout. They told him he needed to figure out how to reduce his stress.

About a year after he had TGA, Hanson's wife encouraged him to try fly fishing. He loved it. It was calming and quiet. There was often no cell service. Hanson learned to live in the moment as he tried to outwit the fish. His new sport made such a difference that he made a movie about it — and transient global amnesia. He called it "The Day I Disremembered."

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