Psychology Science

Alien Hand Syndrome

giphy
via NPR

What if you woke up one day and had a brand new second hand that moved on its own?

This is what happened to Karen after she had brain surgery to help cure her epilepsy. After her operation, her left hand immediately took on a life of its own. For starters, it immediately began to unbutton her shirt on the hospital bed while the surgeon pleaded her to stop.

After she went home the hand started to do other things like slapping her, which reminded me of the self-beating Jim Carrey famously gives himself in the movie Liar Liar.

What caused her alien hand syndrome?

Apparently, the surgery had to split her brain and removed her Corpus callosum, which ties the left and right brain hemisphere together. Basically, the operation caused the opposing sides of her brain to switch roles.

Fortunately, Karen has come to appreciate the moral authority her left hand tries to impose on her decision-making. Any time she tries to smoke, for example, her left hand puts the cigarette out and even flicks the ashes around.

Karen’s come to appreciate the magic discipline of her hand. However, she still gets in a smoke or two. “I understand you want me to quit,” she tells her hand, “but cut the crap!”

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By Wells Baum

Wells Baum is a daily blogger who writes about Life & Arts. He's also the author of four books.

1 reply on “Alien Hand Syndrome”

Invisibilia is one of my favorite podcasts. I love their exploration of our humanity. Some of their episodes are such a surprise. Their 6/1/17 one on Emotions is one I want to listen to. Again. I’m looking forward to their 4th season.

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