Alien Hand Syndrome
I did a post on several rare and bizarre syndromes back in 2005 here. I did mention alien hand syndrome, but I feel compelled to do this whole post on the topic.
A person with this very real and disturbing sickness feel that at certain times, they do not have any control over one of their hands. The alien hand will feel independent from the rest of the body, and will move uncontrollably - as if it had a mind of it's own. Patients feel that their hand is not their own and is possessed by some other entity.
The alien hand could make 'involuntary' jerking movements, it might unbutton a shirt, or even try to hurt the sufferer. There have been stories of people being choked by their own hand in the middle of the night.
That gives me the heebie jeebies.
How did these poor people get this awful syndrome?
Often, patients will develop alien hand syndrome after some type of brain trauma, particularly to the corpus callosum, the bridge between both hemispheres. People with this condition might find their non-dominant hand actually acting completely on it's own. For example, a right-handed person trying reach for the remote control might get slapped by his left "alien" hand.
With damage to the parietal lobe of the brain, a patient might also find one of their hands suddenly goes rogue. The alien hand will often do very purposeful stuff, like unzipping pants, dialing a phone, lighting a cigarette, or flipping through a book.
If a person's frontal lobe is damaged, they could find that their dominant hand will often grab stuff and not let go. Often times, the patient might have to pry the object out with his non-dominant hand.
Scientists are still pretty baffled by this condition, as there are so many complicated variables involved. There is no cure.
Although the exact nature of this strange affliction remains somewhat a mystery, it hasn't stopped Hollywood from using alien hand syndrome to spice-up story lines. Here are just a few examples of AHS in television and films:
Liar Liar: Jim's Carey's character loves to tease his son by unleashing "The Claw." His right hand would suddenly act on it's own and try to attack his kid. That's a great defense should he accidentally abuse his son.
Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb: Comedic genius Peter Sellers plays the wheelchair bound Dr. Strangelove. His gloved right hand would try to choke him to death or give a Nazi salute. One of the funniest scenes in the film is when Dr. Strangelove is fighting with his right hand for control over his wheelchair.
Futurama: The Devil's Hands Are Idle Playthings: On this TV cartoon show, Fry is a terrible holophonor player and wants to win the one-eyed Leela's love. So Fry makes a Faustian deal with the Robot Devil. The Robot Devil and Fry exchange hands, and suddenly Fry is a world-renowned holophonor musician. Here's an excerpt from this episode: