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On the Brain
June 1, 2020

Any Recent Stressors?—A Memoir of Transient Global Amnesia

Author Affiliations
  • 1University of Rochester School of Medicine & Dentistry, Rochester, New York
JAMA Neurol. Published online June 1, 2020. doi:10.1001/jamaneurol.2020.1403

Memory… is the diary that we all carry about with us.

Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest, 1895

A 51-year-old previously healthy man presented with sudden onset of amnesia that resolved in an hour. As part of the evaluation for suspected transient global amnesia (TGA), several physicians and nurses in the emergency department and in an inpatient unit independently asked about recent stressful life events. The patient always replied, “My father-in-law’s funeral was yesterday.” Each evaluator nodded in comprehension and moved on to the rest of the history and examination. Nobody asked an open-ended question exploring the patient’s loss, relationship with his father-in-law, or anything to encourage expansion of the topic.

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