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What happens in the brain of someone suffering from amnesia?




Image of a brain scan taken during a UCLA study on brain injuries.
Image of a brain scan taken during a UCLA study on brain injuries.
File photo by UCLA

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You've seen it in the movies: A man wakes up and has no idea who he is or how he got there.

"Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," "Total Recall" and Hitchcock's "Spellbound" are just a few films that deal with amnesia. But in real life, amnesia is rare.

Earlier this year, a man was found unconscious in Palm Springs Motel. He was speaking Swedish and called himself Johan Ek, but a Florida ID listed him as Michael Boatwright.

He has no idea how he got to Palm Springs and has no recollection of his previous life. Doctors have diagnosed him with Transient Global Amnesia, but after four months, he still has no recall. 

To explain what is happening in his brain, we turn to Jason Brandt, a professor of psychiatry and neurology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.