Medical Content

Alien Hand Syndrome: How Unwanted Movement Disrupts Lives

Aug 23, 2022

Alien hand syndrome is a rare condition in which one hand is not under the control of the mind. The person loses control of the hand and acts as if it has its own mind. These motions are mostly unnecessary or improper at the time and can be frightening to witness.

Versions of Alien Hand Syndrome

Based on the portion of your brain that is triggering the issue, there are three main categories of alien hand syndrome. They are the following:

  • Frontal lobe version. This is the only reported form that affects the right hand.
  • Callosal version. This involves the brain's corpus callosum.
  • Posterior version. This involves the parietal lobe.

Out of Control: Symptoms of Alien Hand Syndrome

The symptoms commonly associated with the frontal lobe version include:

  • Involuntary groping, primarily of other parts of the body and clothing
  • Difficulty releasing objects
  • Involuntary grasping — this can be of any object

The symptoms common to the posterior version include:

  • Levitation – when the arm begins to rise into the air for no apparent reason
  • Unintentional movement, such as waving around
  • Psychological issues - this is the most typical reason for people to stop recognizing their own hands.

The callosal variant is distinguished by a single symptom: conflict during two-handed tasks. For example, you might purposely button your blouse with your right hand because your alien left undoes your job.

Once the condition starts, it might last anywhere from 30 minutes (the shortest known case) to your entire life.

What Causes Alien Hand Syndrome?

Alien hand syndrome isn't strictly a movement disorder, despite the movements it involves. Instead, it seems to be the outcome of some sort of brain damage. Common causes include:

  • Stroke
  • Various neurodegenerative diseases
  • Tumors

The occurrence of alien hand syndrome during brain surgery (to cure epilepsy, for instance) or even during a severe migraine headache is unusual.

Who Gets Alien Hand Syndrome?

This syndrome can affect anyone. A specific brain injury is all that is necessary.

This implies that the likelihood of developing alien hand syndrome increases with the risk of certain brain injuries, such as a stroke. Although many cases include adults over 60, one patient even involved a 13-year-old girl.

Alien Hand Syndrome Treatment

The alien hand condition has no known cure. The majority of the methods for managing it are anecdotal.

Many strategies have been adopted to manage both the physical and psychological issues produced by AHS. These include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy- This can assist people in accepting the emotional truths of their situation. It allows them to consider their alien hand in new ways.
  • Distracting the hand- Some people have discovered that distracting the alien hand with simple and non-embarrassing tasks works well. This can be as simple as having your uncontrollable hand hold a magazine while you go about your day.
  • Visuospatial coaching techniques- This method aims to improve your sense of the alien limb in connection to the rest of your body, allowing you to regain some control.
  • Clonazepam- In one recorded case, a 13-year-old girl with AHS in her right arm used clonazepam to cure her symptoms. After two days, her symptoms had decreased by 70%. Unfortunately, the medicine did not agree with her, so they had to turn to a different method.
  • Botulinum toxin injections- The same 13-year-old girl underwent several injections of botulinum toxin up and down her affected arm. This demonstrated an 80% reduction in her symptoms.

References

  1. Alien Hand Syndrome: How Unwanted Movement Disrupts Lives. Available at: https://share.upmc.com/2016/10/alien-hand-syndrome/?source=gallery-module
  2. What Is Alien Hand Syndrome? Available at: https://www.webmd.com/brain/what-is-alien-hand-syndrome

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