Man Left With 90 Minute Memory Following Dental Procedure

Posted on July 26, 2015

University of Leicester clinical psychologist Dr. Gerald Burgess has published a highly unusual case of a 38-year-old man left with a 90 minute memory after a root canal treatment at a dentist office. The psychologist calls it a case "like nothing we have ever seen before."

Dr. Burgess says in a statement, "One of our reasons for writing up this individual's case was that we had never seen anything like this before in our assessment clinics, and we do not know what to make of it. We had never seen anything like it before."

The 38-year-old man was fit and healthy before the root canal. A local anesthetic was during the procedure. He now suffers from profound anterograde amnesia. His symptoms are described as being similar to those depicted in films like Groundhog Day and Memento. He wakes up each day thinking it is the same day he went to the dentist. He has been unable to remember anything beyond 90 minutes for the last decade.

A BBC story about the man's mysterious condition says the man was pale and he was in a mental fog with "no clue what was going on" following the dental procedure. The researchers say there is no evidence the treatment at the dentist can be blamed for his condition.

Brain scans have not showed any signs of brain damage. The man is still aware of his identity and his personality has not changed. He uses an electronic diary to manage his life. A research paper about the man's unique amnesia was published here in the journal Neurocase in May 2015. Dr. Burgess says in a release from July 15 that he has been receiving some related theories or stories since the Neurocase research paper was published and would like to receive more. However, he has found no clear link to anaesthetic effects or tooth extraction.

Dr. Burgess also says, "I think we learned so much, assessing and working with the patient. One thing is that we should perhaps not be so stuck in thinking that profound amnesia only occurs in the context of visible damage to the brain's hippocampal and/or diencephalon structures – those structures appear just to be needed for the initial holding or retention of information before engrams then proceed slowly through several other neuro-electrical and neuro-chemical events, before finally permanent memories are stored, and that something can occur at some later point in this process to vanquish the memory trace permanently."

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