Icelandic Woman Goes 12 Years Back in Time Skip to content

Icelandic Woman Goes 12 Years Back in Time

The latest issue of the Icelandic Medical Journal describes the case of a young woman who suffers from retrograde memory loss. When she was first treated in October 2009, she said she knew what year it was—as she has been informed of it by the employees of the psychiatric ward—but couldn’t kick the feeling that it was July 1997.


The festival Síldaraevintýrid which is held in Siglufjördur, north Iceland, every year in the first weekend of August. The woman was planning a trip there in 1997. Photo (taken in 2010) by Páll Stefánsson.

She stated she couldn’t remember anything from her life over the past 12 years apart from one memory which came back to her a few days earlier, that she had worked temporarily as a draughtsperson at an engineering firm, reports.

Otherwise she couldn’t remember anything and wasn’t sure what was dream and what was reality, which was causing her discomfort and anxiety.

For example, all of her relatives had suddenly grown old and she was shocked to see herself in the mirror. She cried when she learned about her grandmother’s death—which had occurred a few years earlier—and she didn’t know her nieces and nephews who were born in the past ten years.

When asked who the prime minister was, the woman replied Davíd Oddsson. She maintained the year was 1997 and that she knew a trip with her friend to the Merchants’ Weekend outdoor festival Síldaraevintýrid in Siglufjördur was coming up where they were going to see Sóldögg play. Her favorite bands included Nirvana and The Prodigy.

At the advice of her psychiatrist, the woman flipped through family albums from the past 12 years with her mother in the hope that it would bring back memories. But she was afraid of learning of more bad news like the death of her grandmother.

The Icelandic Medical Journal says that:

“Retrograde memory loss where many years disappear suddenly from memory is a known but rare form of memory disturbance among young and old subjects.

For those whose brain is affected by a known organic damage such as head trauma the time lost from memory is usually not counted in years, but typically hours or sometimes days or weeks.

We review in this article current knowledge on retrograde memory loss as we describe the experience of a 31 year old woman who experienced an unusually long form of retrograde amnesia. She developed the memory loss in the wake of disappointment and a life event. At the time she had major depression.

Having described the case and presented the results of neuropsychological testing, we associate her story with the state of knowledge on retrograde memory loss.”

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