Wednesday Weirdness: Alien Appendages

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Wednesday Weirdness: Alien Appendages

It’s a common fear to be afraid of the unknown, of things that catch us by surprise. Many of us are hyper-vigilant in areas that we are unfamiliar with, casting glances around corners,  being mindful of what could lurk in the shadows, and jumping at the sound of something as mundane as a creaky floorboard. It’s human nature to be cautious; but what if we told you that danger was sometimes even closer than that? What if that unfortunate betrayal came at the hands of… well, yourself? 

Today we explore an odd phenomenon that has led to a number of self-inflicted attacks. One’s own hand striking out against its owner, seemingly acting with a mind of its own. 

The first reported case, we could find, was in 1908. A woman in Russia was suddenly attacked, not by friend or foe, but by her own left hand. She reported that out of nowhere, her hand struck her across the face. The hand then continued to assault her, it became such a brutal attack that the witnesses even described her hand reaching out to choke her. Luckily, she was eventually restrained, and kept from causing herself any more harm.

This was one of the first recorded instances of the odd medical condition that we now know as Alien Hand Syndrome (AHS). 

The Alien Influence

Alien hand syndrome received its name due to the feeling that the affected appendage or limb was no longer one’s own. In some cases it was likened to an alien presence that had asserted its influence over the hand, removing the individual’s ability to act with complete free will. Today, it’s also known as Dr. Strangelove syndrome, named for Peter Seller’s character in the movie of the same name. 

In cases of alien hand syndrome, the hand (or sometimes the leg) acts independently of the rest of the body, as if it has a mind of its own. Those experiencing this anomaly no longer control what their hand does and, as such, the appendage begins to feel like a foreign object. Something alien, as the name would suggest.

As one might suspect, it’s doubtful that extraterrestrials are actually to blame for these rogue behaviours. While there is no singular cause to explain the odd sensation of this syndrome, it’s often linked to neurological issues such as corticobasal syndrome, stroke, and creutzfeldt-jakob disease. This cell death and deterioration in the brain seems to be what most often leads to this severance of the mind and body, though it’s not fully understood how.

We should assure you, there’s little need to start worrying about your own hand turning on you. AHS is a rare disorder and the symptoms are often not as harmful as the violent attack described above. Sometimes the actions are mundane (brushing a hand across one’s cheek) or are simply frustrating for the individual experiencing them. 

These frustrations are never more evident than when one hand works counter to the other. One might put a bit of food in their mouth only to have the uncontrolled hand reach up and take it right back out. You could unlock a door with one hand and not have time to walk through it before the other hand locked it again. Tea time might take a bit longer if the rogue hand keeps turning off the kettle before the water is even boiled.  

With no control over what their own limb does, it’s no wonder people have found an odd comfort in ascribing the actions to an otherworldly presence. Some have even given the hand its own name, noting its distinct personality as something different from their own. 

Which begs the question:

Are lost connections in the brain enough to explain this one to you? Or could there be another puppet-master out there?

(There are more strange happenings and odd phenomena waiting to be discovered; you can start by unravelling the mystery at Camp Moonforest, available now.)

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1 comment

This is a syndrome that is often related to the severing of the corpus callosum, which connects the two hemispheres of the brain. Some surgeries to treat epilepsy will do this on purpose, at other times it may be a congenital condition. With the two hemispheres isolated, it’s as if each half of the brain develops independently of the other and that can include each side having a different personality. It’s a truly fascinating condition to read about.

The Professor

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