Our bodies can do amazing things under a set of stressful circumstances. When we or someone we are close to are in danger, our bodies can make us jump higher, lift more weight than even capable, or even move faster than normal. Sometimes, it can even seem like we aren’t even in control at that moment. Like our bodies are dictating our movements for us before we even have time to make a decision. Our bodies can automatically perform miracles under the right conditions and those temporary moments are something to be grateful for. But what if it lasted a lot longer than that? What if a vital part of our bodies, like our hands, suddenly decided what it wanted to do? Hand specialists in Birmingham, Alabama and other parts of the world are somewhat familiar with the concept and have witnessed it take place.
Today, we are going to look at …
Alien Hand Syndrome
Alien hand syndrome or “Strangelove Syndrome” is a condition in which limbs will act entirely independent from the conscious thought of the person it is attached to. The hand will work on its own accord. Oftentimes hindering or ‘disobeying’ the will of the user that is trying to consciously issue a command. There are recorded instances of one hand will button a shirt, the alien hand working to unbutton it. One hand lighting a cigarette and the alien hand putting it out. And one hand obeying commands at a keyboard while the alien hand will mischievously put in a typo to grab your attention.
For all intents and purposes, the alien hand feels like a separate entity. Which is a terrifying concept in and of itself? But how does it work, and what can you do about it? How many people does this sort of thing affect? And, what motivates that hand to act on its own accord? Can a hand specialist fix this sort of thing?
The First Recording of Alien Hand Syndrome
In the early 20th century, a German woman, who had suffered a stroke and partially recovered, noticed something wrong with her left arm. She had little feeling in her left arm and hand and it started acting like it had a mind of its own. When she grasped an object with her left hand, she could not voluntarily release it. It would also make spontaneous movements, wiping her eyes and faces and would only respond to a verbal command. Even then, the action of the left hand would be delayed. German neurophysicist, Kurt Goldstein, would publish a paper after studying the phenomenon. What he concluded, based on his holistic approach to handling mental conditions was that there was an issue with brain/nerve communication with the muscles of our hands.
How our Brains affect our Hand’s Motor Skills
Our brains essentially pilot our organs, limbs, and muscles thanks to its connection via the central nervous system. Basically, that means that there is a network of nerves that runs electricity from our brains to parts of our body to keep them functioning. The brain controls two types of movement, voluntary and involuntary movement, which both means exactly as it sounds. However, what most medical specialists didn’t realize until the turn of the 20th century when they started dabbling with brain surgery, was the specific functions of the Corpus Callosum, the part of the brain that connected the two hemispheres.
Corpus Callosum is responsible for integrating motor, sensory, and cognitive performances between the cerebral cortex on one side of the brain to the same region on the other side. And the go-to method at the time for curing epilepsy was to split the corpus callosum in half.
When the communication between both hemispheres is severed, you get a limb that is cut off from that communication. It acts on its own accord because there is no message received from the other half of the brain. So, the alien hand acts on its own instinct or follows explicit auditory instruction rather than implicit instruction.
Can a Hand Specialist Help with Alien Hand Syndrome?
The answer to that question is “sort of”. There is no known cure for Alien Hand Syndrome. Let’s face it, you can’t exactly uncut two brain hemispheres or reverse a stroke. However, what a hand specialist can do is help you cope with the condition. With consistent physical therapy, you can gain some voluntary control back in your hand. A hand specialist will help you come up with ways to keep your hand occupied while you are out and about. They can even offer some insight on how to improve your motor skills.