The strange case of the woman who lost her memory after sex
by Annalee Newitz
A healthy, 54-year-old woman living in the Washington, D.C. area awoke one morning to find that she couldn’t remember what she was doing. She knew who and where she was, but couldn’t seem to form new memories. After a day of confusion and forgetfulness, she went to the Georgetown University Hospital. There, she admitted that the memory losses began right after having sex with her husband.
That was doctors’ first clue what was going on. Because this woman wasn’t the first to show up with sexual amnesia.
In fact, sex is just one of the activities that can cause a rare condition called “transient global amnesia.” The ailment has no known cause — though there are a few theories — and usually lasts for a fairly short period of time. In the case of the Georgetown woman, the symptoms began to clear up after she’d undergone a few tests in the hospital. Like other patients with the condition, her brain had suffered no damage, and her difficulties were only with forming new memories rather than recalling what had happened to her before the mind-wiping sex.
Cases like this woman’s can also affect past memories, which is called “retroactive transient amnesia.” But no matter which areas of memory are affected, the condition is temporary and basically harmless (though generally quite frightening). There are also no documented cases of temporary global amnesia happening more than once to the same person.