Alien Hand Syndrome (AHS)
Alien Hand Syndrome (AHS) – is a complex neuropsychiatric disorder, one form of apraxia, in which one or both hands move on their own, regardless of the owner desires. AHS most commonly affects the left hand and is sometimes accompanied by bouts of epilepsy. A patient may reach the objects without wanting to do so, unconsciously manipulate by hand without any control. A person may feel a sensation in the affected hand but does not feel that it is a part of the own body like it belongs to an alien.
There is also another name for the disease – “Dr. Strangelove syndrome” which was given not as the name of the discoverer, but in honor of Dr. Strangelove, one of the heroes of the film of Stanley Kubrick’s “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb” (1964), whose hand sometimes made a Nazi salute or began to strangle its owner by itself.
This disorder was first identified in 1909 by the German neurologist Kurt Goldstein. There are only 40-50 recorded cases since this time.
The affected people will describe the main symptom as having an alien hand which has an own will and patients are not able to control it. The person may even feel the affected hand as a part of the body but it will spontaneously act on its own. In order to summarize the complaints of the patients, the main symptoms include:
- no control of movements of the “alien” hand
- patient is not aware of hand’s actions
- awareness becomes possible if the hand catches patient’s attention
- the affected people believe that they are controlled by aliens
The syndrome usually appears after a trauma of the brain, brain surgery, infection of the brain or stroke.
There are different subtypes of the alien hand syndrome depending on brain injuries that cause it. For instance, injury in the corpus callosum (brain area) in right-handed person can cause non-controlled movements by the left hand. While brain tumors or strokes can lead to such hand actions as unbuttoning or tearing of clothes.
Degenerative brain conditions (Alzheimer’s disease, Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease) may increase the risk of AHS.
There are four subtypes of AHS:
- corpus callosum
- frontal lobe
- parietal and occipital lobes
- similarities between frontal and posterior variants
There is no treatment for the alien hand syndrome, all the patient can do is to keep the hand busy by holding objects in it, in order to control it. In the case of nervous and psychological disorders, doctors prescribe medicines to eliminate these disorders. Patients may try use psychotropic medication to remove the motor stimulation .