According to a 1997 medical journal paper, a 67-year-old man was frequently woken by his own hand, out of his control, grabbing at his collar. He managed to control the problem by wearing an oven mitt. Of course, this is only one of many strange cases of Alien Hand Syndrome aka "Dr. Strangelove syndrome," which we've posted about on BB previously. It's rare, but sometimes seen in individuals who have had their two brain hemispheres separated to alleviate epileptic seizures, or people who have suffered strokes or other brain injuries. MSNBC's The Body Odd surveys a few cases:
"An alien hand is an arm and hand that moves when the person to whom that arm belongs does not intend it to move," says Dr. Ken Heilman, a neurologist at the University of Florida College of Medicine in Gainesville, Fla. Heilman goes on to note that there are many neurological conditions that cause an arm to move unintentionally -- like seizures or tremors, and movement disorders such as chorea, dystonia and athetosis. Here's the difference: In each of those cases, if the arm moves, it's pretty much just flailing about purposelessly, "but with an alien hand, the movement appears to be purposeful." Creepy.
Heilman recalls one patient whose hands actually fought over fashion: Her right hand took a pair of red shoes out of the closet. Her left hand -- the "alien" hand -- pulled the red shoes out of her right hand, put them back and picked up a pair of blue shoes. When the right hand went again for the red shoes, the left hand slammed the closet door on the right hand.
A German neurologist and psychiatrist named Kurt Goldstein was the first to report a case of alien hand syndrome in 1908. His patient's left hand seemed to do whatever it pleased, including, at least once, an attempt to throttle its owner.