A British man says a dentist saved his tooth, but the root canal he underwent took his memory. The 48-year-old man said he hasn't been able to remember anything for any longer than 90 minutes since the routine procedure took place 10 years ago.
About the last thing William can remember is being at a dental appointment on the afternoon of March 14, 2005. (William isn't his real name, but he's remaining anonymous to preserve his privacy).
According to the BBC, William was a member of the British Armed Forces serving in Germany. He had a dental appoint at 1:30 PM, and the last thing he can remember is the dentist administering a local anesthetic. From that point on, his memory is wiped.
Although memories of his life before the fateful dentist appointment are sharp, his current memory is stuck. Each morning he thinks he's still in Germany with a dental appointment later in the day.
William's dentist wasn't aware anything was unusual until after the procedure and William appeared pale and struggled to stand. His memory was also hazy.
Initially, doctors suspected he'd had a bad reaction to the anesthetic, causing a brain hemorrhage; but brain scans were normal and showed nothing unusual. After a three-day stay in the hospital, William was physically improved, but he couldn't remember anything for more than a few minutes.
William was discharged and moved back to England.
The obvious diagnosis of William's condition is a type of memory loss called anterograde amnesia. However, the brains of patients with this condition indicate brain damage in areas involving the hippocampus, which controls memory, but William's brain appeared healthy.
Other symptoms don't match a diagnosis of anterograde amnesia. Henry Molaison, a famous sufferer of the condition, had portions of his brain involving the hippocampus removed to control his epilepsy. Much of what we understand about the brain comes from doctors studying Molaison.
While Molaison had no memory of personal events, he could learn a new skill and remember how to perform it. William, however, quickly forgets the skill.
In addition, William hadn't undergone any psychological trauma following a traumatic event, which could have triggered the condition.
"It is a bit of a head-scratcher," John Aggleton, a professor of cognitive neuroscience at Cardiff University, told the BBC.
William's case was published in the journal Neurocase in an article written by Gerald Burgess, his clinical psychologist. Burgess hopes that publishing William's experience will attract the attention of other health providers that have cases similar to William's.
As for William, he begins each day reading notes labeled "First thing — read this."
The only event he can remember from the past 10 years is his father's death. Every day, he has to relearn the fact that his son and daughter are grown and no longer children.
William still hopes he will one day be able to retain recent memories. "I want to walk my daughter down the aisle and remember it," he told the BBC. "Should they become parents, I would like to remember that I have grandchildren, and who they are."
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