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A 54-year-old woman showed up in the emergency room at Georgetown University Hospital with her husband, unable to remember the past 24 hours. Her newer memories were hazy, too. One thing she did recall: Her amnesia had started right after having sex with her husband just an hour before.
People with transient global amnesia suffer no side effects, and the memory problems usually reverse themselves in the span of a few hours. It's a rare condition, affecting only about 3 to 5 people per 100,000 each year. But what makes transient global amnesia so eerie is that researchers aren't sure what causes it, or why patients remain otherwise chatty and alert while missing large chunks of their memories.
The closest thing to an explanation researchers have for this sex-triggered amnesia is that the problem may not begin in the brain, but in the neck. In a January 2010 study published in the journal Stroke, Ameriso and his colleagues conducted sonograms of the necks of 142 patients who'd experienced transient global amnesia within the last week. They found that 80 percent of the patients had what is called insufficiency of the valves in the jugular vein.