A new study explains that a trip to the dentist for a usual root canal has led to a British man losing his ability to form new memories.
In 2005, a 38-year-old man was stuck with a 90 minute span for each memory, after having a root canal treatment. And according to the University of Leicester, the reason for the short duration was due to his inability to create new memories.
The 38-year-old man or WO, as referred to in the study, has lived his 10 years waking up and believing that it’s the same day as in 2005, when he had visited the dentist.
Gerald Burgess, the study’s lead author and lecturer at a university, says he and his team have “never seen anything like it before.” He feels that it is necessary to make the public aware of this case as he says, “One of our reasons for writing up this individual’s case was that we had never seen anything like this before in our assessment clinics, and we do not know what to make of it, but felt an honest reporting of the facts as we assessed them was warranted, that perhaps there will be other cases, or people who know more than we do about what might have caused the patient’s amnesia.”
When WO had his procedure that year, he was a serving U.K soldier who was living in Germany. Up till the incident, the victim had lived a normal life with his spouse and two children. Burgees stated that no damage was done to the man during the root canal procedure, and previously, he wasn’t a victim of any mental illness.
During the root canal in 2005, the patient was given an anesthetic drug prior to the procedure and by the end of it, it was apparent that the patient had blacked out and couldn’t move himself. As his situation did not get any better, he was rushed to the hospital.
In a month’s time, it was noted that WO only had a 10-minute memory span, which gradually increased to 90 minutes. Study says he was then considered for any brain injury but fortunately, his MRI and CT scans came back normal.
It is believed by Burgees that the WO’s condition may have a relation with his nervous system. While the experience is being saved in the brain, new protein formation takes place in order to reshape these networks. If anything interrupts this critical protein formation process, the human brain becomes susceptible to amnesia and other syndromes.
“Something can occur at some later point in this process to vanquish the memory trace permanently,” Burgess stated in a report. He further supported this statement with the idea that protein formation takes 90 minutes, which is exactly the same time span during which WO is able to preserve a memory.
When WO and his family went back to their home in UK, the patient successfully recognized his hometown and was familiar with his surroundings.
According to the study, “In general, each morning he is surprised to wake up in his mother’s house. He wakes up believing that he should still be in the military, stationed abroad,” and “Every day he thinks it is the day of the dental appointment.”
The 38-year-old man however, is still able to remember all the events and happenings that took place till the day of treatment. He is also able to recall the injection of anesthesia he was given and the instant the dentist started operating. To successfully keep track of his daily activities, he is supported by an electronic diary and his wife, who believes he has become more impatient.
Although WO is aware of his disability, yet he still needs his wife to keep him informed with the events that took place after the tragedy.