What if you woke up one morning in bed, lying next to your loving husband/boyfriend/whatever, and didn’t have any concept of what day, month, or, hell, year it was? And what if you found out, after being rushed to the doctor, that the reason for your short-term memory loss was that you had sex the night before? I dunno about you, but it would freak me the eff out. According to an article on CNN, “for decades, doctors described cases of a rare neurological condition that usually occurred in patients over age 50. Neurologists noted that patients knew their identities, but couldn’t retain recent memory, where they were and how they got there. They showed no other symptoms.”
They now have a name for this condition — transient global amnesia (TGA) — and sex is one of the primary triggers. People with this condition lose their ability to retain immediate memories after engaging in strenuous activity — like bumping uglies, working out, or even submerging themselves in hot or cold water. “The unifying thing about each of them is they produce a sudden and significant change in blood flow,” Dr. Louis Caplan, professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School, told CNN. The patient highlighted in the CNN piece is named Alice. She awoke one morning in 2008 thinking Bill Clinton was still in office. At the hospital, the doctors told her what her condition was and what triggered it — having sex with her husband that morning (which she has no memory of) — and Alice joked to her husband, “You owe me a 30-carat diamond!” A few minutes later her memory faltered again and she repeated the same quip. And again. And again. Freaky huh?
Or hilarious. “It was like a script or a tape,” her husband Scott told CNN. “On the one hand, it was very funny. We were hysterical. It was scary as all hell.”
Patients with a history of migraine headaches are more likely to develop TGA, especially TGA that is triggered by sex and particularly by orgasm. According to CNN, a study of two patients with TGA triggered by sexual activity indicated “the act of ‘bearing down’ — which occurs when people move their bowels, give birth or have sex — created pressure in the brain’s blood vessels, resulting in temporary lack of blood flow that caused amnesia.” Luckily, TGA usually only occurs once, but it can become recurrent.
As for Alice, she hasn’t had any other TGA episodes, but still has no memory of what happened the morning she had sex with her husband, had an orgasm, and woke up thinking Clinton was still in office. [CNN]