Talk:Alien hand syndrome

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I moved this to alien hand syndrome, as there is no reason for Hand and Syndrome to have capitals. Unfortunately, some Wikipedia lists have disease names that are all capitals. This is not justified. JFW | T@lk 16:11, 8 Jul 2004 (UTC)

Short story[edit]

I remember a short story by SF writer Theodore Sturgeon called "Bianca's Hands" in which a man falls in love with a woman's hands who then take on a life of their own during her sleep and attempt to strangle him. Don't recall though if it is specifically stated that this is a case of Alien hand syndrome or if this is just how I remember it. Can someone confirm / deny ? Also, I'm new to Wiki, is this worth mentionning in Cultural references ? Thanks. [Helix]

Cultural References[edit]

Wouldn't this also describe Doc Ock in Spiderman2? If we're counting malevolent prostheses as alien hands, certainly his "tentacles" qualify. -t

Alien hand versus Anarchic hand[edit]

Alien hand and anarchic hand are two distinct neurological conditions caused by lesions to different, though related, parts of the brain. The description of alien hand actually appears to mix both alien and anarchic hand.

In alien hand, a sufferer has normal sensation but lacks the sense of "ownership" of the affected limb i.e. they have an impaired sense of their own body.

In anarchic hand, a sufferer has a limb that appears to act without their will.

We need an expert opinion on this one.

I have written extensively about this condition and have described several cases in the medical literature. It is my opinion that alien hand and anarchic hand are basically two different terms for the same syndrome. The original description by Brion and Jedynak in the French literature was: "le signe de la main etrangere", so you can translate from there as you will. The essential issue is the observation and description of the observed clinical phenomena which are really quite striking and difficult to mistake. There are a large variety of different terms that have come to the fore (eg. diagonistic apraxia as a term for "intermanual conflict") but the variation in terminology just serves to obscure the essential observations of the behavior and, more importantly, the experience of the patient as gleaned from their introspective verbal reports of how the whole situation feels. [GG] (talk) 18:22, 3 August 2008 (UTC)

here's a link to an article that is quite clear they are separate conditions.

The point of differentiation proposed in this paper between "anarchic" and "alien" is that the "anarchic" hand does things that are "extravolitional" while the "alien" hand does not feel a part of oneself. This might appear to be a helpful distinction but really would end up causing a lot of confusion since the term "alien" and "anarchic" have already been heavily used in the literature as referring to a hand that acts without a corresponding sense of "agency" felt by its owner. In most cases of what is defined as "alien" hand, the hand is clearly identified as an integral part of the patient's body--that is the difficult part for the patient: that is, that a hand they feel is actually a part of them is doing things over which they do not feel control. Again, I actually think that this paper proposes to do something that would cause a lot more confusion in the literature. There is already a term for not recognizing one's body parts as one's own and that is "asomatognosia". So why do we need another term for this phenomenon? Referring to "alien" hand as a hand that is not recognized as one's own would be totally redundant. Asomatognosia is something that is observed in association with parietal lobe lesions and is a fairly well-recognized phenomenon. The "alien/anarchic" hand, however, is a whole different ball of wax: **a hand that one feels is one's own is doing things that one does not feel one is doing.** That is the central feature described in the literature by most authors for both "alien" and "anarchic" hands. [GG] (talk) 18:22, 3 August 2008 (UTC)

References added to article[edit]

I have added an extensive set of references to this article most of which are drawn from mainstream medical journals. I would appreciate if we could now rescind the "warning" at the top of the page regarding a lack of references to reliable sources. Thank you. It is clear that this is now a well-accepted clinical observation that has been extensively observed and documented. [GG] —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs) 22:15, 31 July 2008 (UTC)

Causes and Treatment[edit]

There is no treatment as of yet. Yet keeping the hand from being idle seems to help.

How common is it?[edit]

Just wondering does anyone know how common the syndrome is? Obviously not very, but what about an order of magnitude estimate - how many "sufferers" in a million people? one, ten, only one per ten million? It would be a very interesting piece of information for the article, imho. Deuar 20:53, 21 February 2006 (UTC)

There are less than 100 reported cases in the medical literature. Now, does this mean that this is the total number of times that this has appeared? Probably not. The question is how often is it seen and recognized as such and how often does it go unnoticed or "hidden". I don't think anyone can really answer that question. I see a lot of patients with various forms of brain damage and am aware and looking for this problem. I might see 3 or 4 clear-cut cases a year out of hundreds of patients seen during that period. It is not a common observation, but neither is it something that would never be seen by a typical neurologist or physiatrist taking care of people with stroke and brain injury. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talkcontribs).


Is it accurate to say that Dr. Strangelove, in the movie of the same name, suffers from AHS? I thought his "alien" hand was a spring-loaded prosthesis, not a natural hand he couldn't consciously control. 00:26, 3 October 2006 (UTC)

I'm pretty sure it was a gloved hand. cyclosarin 15:19, 11 February 2007 (UTC)
The movie was pretty accurate to the time period it was set in. I see no reason why that should have been a prosthetic limb at all. I don't recall anything that would imply it was supposed to be prosthetic. --Nofxjunkee 21:20, 4 May 2007 (UTC)

A-Team episode[edit]

I remember there was an A-Team episode where Murdock insisted his left hand "Lefty" to have a will of its own. I don't remember which episode it was though. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talk) 02:23, 6 February 2007 (UTC).

Spoiler about Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows[edit]

(the following quote is a spoiler about Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows)

In Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows, the magical hand previously given to Wormtail by Voldemort to replace his severed hand strangles him to death when Wormtail betrays Voldemort.

Shouldn't this quote be removed or t a spoiler warning be written there? I am about to start reading the book and now I know more than I wanted to ...

I don't think this really qualifies as much of a spoiler, as he's been reduced to a minor character in this book and his death is really pretty inconsequential. Also, his being killed by Voldemort for some reason or other isn't really all that unexpected.
One other thing, remember to sign your posts in talk pages with four tildes. 23:33, 22 August 2007 (UTC)

Uncontrollable hands in fiction...[edit]

...are not examples alien hand syndrone. The article is clear that AHS is a real phenomena that is usually caused by some sort of brain damage, and the vast majority of the references in the Cultural References section are of some sort of possession of arms or hands by some apparition. In fact, the only real example of AHS in the section from what I've seen so far is Dr. Strangelove. The original section lede was also clearly a work of original research and has been removed. If no one objects, this section will be culled or outright removed. hateless 07:21, 17 June 2008 (UTC)

Agreed. Examples from fiction which should not be included in this article include:
  • Possessed limbs, or any examples with a magical or paranormal explanations
  • Transplanted or removed limbs that gain a 'life of their own'
  • Examples referencing 'sufficiently advanced technology', including genetic modification or robot limbs (e.g. Doc Ock, etc.)
    — Spudtater (talkcontribs) 15:18, 3 July 2008 (UTC)

I really think it is too bad that the complete list of cultural references to which various folks were adding was removed from this article. It was actually one of the more interesting and entertaining parts of the article. The fact is that there is no clear line that can be drawn between the factual truth and the manner in which the imagination creates a fictional characterization that overlaps with the truth. In fact, in the case of the alien hand syndrome, the facts can actually be somewhat stranger than the fiction. The idea that there can be purposeful action generated in the human limb without obvious participation of a human agent producing the volitional drive is the common theme both for the observations that are made in patients with alien hand syndrome and for the various fictional adaptations that play on this distinction between consciously perceived "agency" and "ownership." Therefore, particularly with a community effort such as Wikipedia, participation in contributing examples from cross-cultural sources of situations and characters that play on this distinction really should not be excluded from the conversation, but, on the contrary, makes it a whole lot more interesting and tied in. [GG] (talk) 18:29, 3 August 2008 (UTC)

I also wrote the original lede for this section of the article which really did not present any original research at all. I am not sure where that perception came from. The lede simply notes that, while the phenomenon of alien hand syndrome has only recently been recognized in humans with a specific type of stroke (and some other pathologies), a similar situation in which a limb acts outside of the will of its apparent owner, has been a part of folk lore and various cultural venues for a long time. That is a fact that heightens the interest in this clinical condition. And it is a situation that captures our interest because it challenges some basic philosophic assumptions about the nature of action and its link to an identifiable actor who is the causal source and controller of the action. And can therefore be held responsible for the consequences of the action. Having published several articles on alien hand syndrome in the medical literature, I thought that this link that crosses boundaries between scientific fact and various conceptually associated products of the human imagination, was an extremely interesting one which deserved recognition and a rightful place here. On the other hand, if it if necessary according to those exerting their authority here to be 'pure' about this, we might start a separate topic that could be hot-linked to this article entitled "Dissociation between Embodied Will and Action" and then could have a list of fictional sources that operate with this theme. [GG] (talk) 18:44, 3 August 2008 (UTC)

I suggest you read WP:OR for a complete discussion on what original research means in this encyclopedia project. My general rule of thumb is that if a skeptical and critical reader is thinking "oh really? says who?", then it's a suspect piece of writing. Your preface made me think that after every sentence. As stated in WP:V, there is no room for self-evident ideas in Wikipedia, everything must be verifiable as fact by another source. As for the rest of the culled content from that section, it was simply off-topic: just because symptoms of one disease is portrayed in a movie doesn't mean that movie gets mention in every possible disorder article that has that symptom. Perhaps if you are fascinated with the idea of uncontrollable limbs, it may find a better home in another article, if it can pass WP:V. hateless 20:47, 3 August 2008 (UTC)
Well you may say that that is the policy, but it is clear that Wikipedia is packed full of all kinds of opinions and unsupported statements. And a truly "skeptical and critical reader" would likely dump 3/4 of what is published as "fact" on Wikipedia. This becomes a problem when those who have no direct experience or expertise with a subject suddenly envisage themselves as authorities and become over-exuberant editors.

A quick look at the WP entry on Google's "Knol" clearly demonstrates that one approach to establishing "fact" on Wikipedia is to quote someone else's opinion about something and call that a "citation" that establishes "verifiability as fact". By they way, is there such a thing as an appeal process on Wikipedia?? Or are those who impose their authoritative judgments beyond question. (talk) 20:08, 10 August 2008 (UTC)

The first line in Wikipedia's verifiability policy is "The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth." Like it or not, an encyclopedia in a wiki environment does not work if it reflects what editors feel is truth, but it can work if it acts as a summary for existing published material. While most of us like to keep the encyclopedia factual, we recognize we have no place as arbiters of fact, and it's a much fairer process to just summarize what everyone else says. As for an appeals process, there's plenty, but there's only one editorial body, and that's us. You better start crafting some arguments that would impress your fellow editors. One thing that won't work is denying Wikipedia's policies or having a cynical view of the encyclopedia in the first place. hateless 21:25, 10 August 2008 (UTC)

S. Lem's Peace on Earth referrence[edit]

What the main character (Ijon Tichy) suffers is probably not exactly 'Alien hand syndrome'. His condition has been caused by military robots testing a new weapon which causes his brain hemispheres to disconnect. Mostly the book deals with something like I. T.'s subconcious and instincts controlling his left hand, and sometimes leg.

Mariusz "Kot" Butrykowski —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 09:56, 21 July 2008 (UTC)

The article now contains references to support the discussion[edit]

Can we remove the designation of this article as unreferenced? (talk) 18:25, 3 August 2008 (UTC)

Not really. Although the list of references is helpful, the assertions made in the article need to be directly linked to specific sources. Blackmetalbaz (talk) 10:08, 29 August 2008 (UTC)

The Speaking Mind vs the Silent Drawing Mind[edit]

Years ago I seem to recall a 1980s (?) PBS program on the mind by Philip Zimbardo that explored the perceptions of people with a split corpus callosum, whereby the subject's eyes are covered in such a way so that the left brain hemisphere registers one image, while the right hemisphere registers another.

  • For one hemisphere, when shown an image, the person could say what they saw. When the other hemisphere was shown an image, the person said that they saw nothing.
  • However, the hand of the hemisphere shown the image could draw a rough sketch, which the speaking side could then see, interpret, and then describe from the sketch.

It seems possible for communication with the "alien hand" to occur by placing a pencil in its grasp and asking questions, which can then be answered in visual form.

Pieces of Mind[edit]

Scientific American Frontiers
Season 7, Episode 3: Pieces of Mind, First Aired: 1997-01-22
60-second preview video clip:
Supplements discussion of the structure and functions of the cerebral cortex. Features Dartmouth University’s Michael Gazzaniga, and Joe, an epileptic who had his corpus callosum severed to stop daily seizures. Cutting the corpus callosum prevented the spread of the seizures from Joe’s right hemisphere to his left, but it also prevented the two hemispheres from communicating with each other. Gazzaniga outlines his classic “split-brain” research paradigm. Hosted by Alan Alda.

Smart but Lazy[edit]
To the casual observer, the early split brain patients appeared perfectly normal. They could talk and read and had no problems recognizing the world about them. The seizures gone, they seemed happy, alert and healthy.
Then Gazzaniga made a startling discovery. If the patient held up something like a comb or a coffee cup in his left hand, he couldn't speak its name. Transferred to the right hand -- no trouble at all.
(. . . .)
The right cerebral hemisphere wasn't an imbecile, after all. It was highly intelligent. And it was still blessed with imagination and a sense of humor. Illiterate, true! And it was mute. But it was as nimble in abstract geometric logic as the dominant left cerebral hemisphere was with words. It had learned early in life to specialize in certain kinds of memory. And it was word- lazy.
Before the corpus callosum had been cut, if the right hemisphere needed a word, all it had to do was put in a call to the left side. Now it was on its own. It would have to learn to hang on to information coming in from the external world. Indeed, it could do that, too. Within six months, the right cerebral hemisphere was sell on its way to literacy. The day would come when a split brain patient might even read two completely different books at the very same time. In a world of words, the operation might have certain advantages.
DMahalko (talk) 21:33, 14 April 2009 (UTC)

Discovering Psychology, Episode 14[edit]

Aha, here is the video with Philip Zimbardo, and it is from 1990. The program is 30 minutes long, and split-brain discussion occurs about 20 minutes into the program.

Video link: (requires registration)

Discovering Psychology: Updated Edition Produced by WGBH Boston with the American Psychological Association. 1990, 2001.

Highlighting major new developments in the field, this updated edition of Discovering Psychology offers high school and college students, and teachers of psychology at all levels, an overview of historic and current theories of human behavior. Stanford University professor and author Philip Zimbardo narrates as leading researchers, practitioners, and theorists probe the mysteries of the mind and body. Based on extensive investigation and authoritative scholarship, this introductory course in psychology features demonstrations, classic experiments and simulations, current research, documentary footage, and computer animation. This series is also valuable for teachers seeking to review the subject matter.

Episode 14. The Mind Hidden and Divided

This program shows how experiences that take place below the level of consciousness alter our moods, bias our actions, and affect our health — as demonstrated in repression, discovered and false memory syndromes, hypnosis, and split-brain cases. With Dr. Jonathan Schooler of the University of Pittsburgh and Dr. Michael Gazzaniga of Dartmouth College. Updated.

DMahalko (talk) 00:35, 15 April 2009 (UTC)

Bad Sounding...[edit]

"Alien hands can perform complex acts such as undoing buttons, removing clothing, and manipulating tools." Might want to change this - sounds a little suggestive, Don't you think? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 02:37, 27 May 2009 (UTC)

Indeed. I suggest moving "manipulating tools" so that it becomes the first example, to avoid the unintended perceived sequence. --Damiens.rf 17:11, 15 March 2011 (UTC)

Removed vandalism; "dr balls syndrome," no doubt Johnfloyd6675 (talk) 16:32, 10 February 2012 (UTC)

Selected references from medical literature[edit]

I removed this section out of the article. It is not the least "selected" but way out of control. The entries here are not direct references to the content, so it is more like a "Further reading" section. Please see Wikipedia:Further reading and put only entries that are topical, reliable and balanced, and please, keep the section limited in size. "Wikipedia is not a catalogue of all existing works." If you want to put a an entry back into the article, please motivate why. Thank you! Lova Falk talk 15:25, 20 October 2012 (UTC)

<long list deleted -- consult the article history if you need it. Looie496 (talk) 22:45, 25 November 2015 (UTC) >

Cultural references[edit]

Someone added that Common has this syndrome. Where are your sources for this? Can this be verified? I cannot find this mentioned in any other reports about Common, Glory, Diane Sawyer, etc. If its true, there should be some source. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 2620:0:691:2325:25F7:E318:BDF4:88BA (talk) 17:31, 25 November 2015 (UTC)

I can't make any sense of this. What is "Common"? Looie496 (talk) 22:45, 25 November 2015 (UTC)