What is alien hand syndrome
Alien hand syndrome is a situation where a person loses control of their arm, much less often, their leg. Violation is not common, but it became viral in popular culture thanks to the Stanley Kubrick film Dr. Strangelove, or How I Stopped Worrying and Loved the Atomic Bomb. Hence the second name – Dr. Strangelove’s disease.
Although this syndrome is also loved by other directors: it was found in the TV series House and Scream Queens, the movie Idle Hands, and the Thing in The Addams Family is literally a hand with a mind.
How does alien hand syndrome manifest?
With this syndrome, the hand seems alien and behaves as if it has its own mind: it does not obey the will of the person and performs actions inexplicable to the owner. For example, touching the face and body, unbuttoning and fastening buttons, taking objects, opening drawers. Since her actions cannot be controlled, she often appears “bad” or “naughty”. The limb is perceived to be so separate from the body that often people even give it its own name.
This feeling of alienation of the hand is an important difference between the syndrome and conditions associated with tics or reflex twitches, such as Tourette’s syndrome .
In addition to the emerging feeling of foreignness of the limb, the syndrome can manifest itself in other ways:
- conflict between hand actions;
- feeling of having an “extra” limb;
- levitating hand.
Why Alien Hand Syndrome Occurs
Alien hand syndrome develops when the corpus callosum, which connects the hemispheres, is affected. Or when the work of two sections of the cerebral cortex is disconnected: the premotor, which is responsible for controlling actions and planning movements, and the primary motor, which regulates movements. This can happen for various reasons:
- stroke or transient, that is, transient, cerebral ischemia;
- brain tumor;
- head injury;
- demyelinating diseases of the brain, such as multiple sclerosis ;
- brain surgery;
- neuroinfections such as mad cow disease.
Why is Alien Hand Syndrome dangerous?
The scientific literature does not describe specific cases where the hand actually caused physical harm. Although it is sometimes mentioned in passing how she tried to strangle the owner, this information usually requires confirmation. It was also reported that one day the man’s hand was masturbating in front of a nurse and he couldn’t stop it. So this syndrome can seriously complicate life.
How is alien hand syndrome treated?
There is no effective treatment for alien hand syndrome. It can last from several days to several years, and then pass. This is due to the extreme neuroplasticity of the brain and its ability to recover – some areas can take over the functions of the damaged ones. The shortest documented incident of violation lasted only 30 minutes.
Symptoms can be controlled if you occupy your hand with something, restrain it or “calm it down” by stroking or putting it into, for example, a mitten, a cooking mitt.
There are no approved drugs for this syndrome, but the search continues . So, a case is described when a thirteen-year-old girl with a “levitating” arm was helped by botulinum toxin and an anticonvulsant. And another patient began using her hand when, after CBT, she learned to control her anger and frustration with her diagnosis.
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