Transient global amnesia (TGA) is an inability to form new memories. The pathophysiology and cause of TGA have not been defined. We examined the changes of internal jugular venous flow patterns in 21 patients with TGA and 21 age-matched and sex-matched controls using duplex ultrasonography during two Valsalva manoeuvres (blocking venous return through the superior vena cava). During both manoeuvres a retrograde flow component was seen significantly more frequently in the TGA group than in the controls. Ten patients reported Valsalva-like activities preceding TGA. In these patients a retrograde flow component took place more frequently than in those who did not report preceding Valsalva-like activities. Our results lend support to the hypothesis that TGA may be attributable to venous congestion, and consequent venous ischaemia to bilateral diencephalic or hippocampal structures.