In a disturbing bit of news from the neurosurgery world, a woman who underwent brain surgery has been left with the rare and incredibly mysterious disorder known as Alien Hand Syndrome. The Syndrome sometimes affects people who have suffered a traumatic brain injury. And though it is believed the disorder came about as a result of recent surgery, the strange case has left her life in tatters and her hand with what appears to be a mind of its own.
Alien Hand Syndrome afflicts people in a strange way. Their hand suddenly takes on a life of its own and begins attacking them or thinking entirely independently of them. They cannot control the out of control limb and must often resort to tying it down or otherwise restraining it or suffer from the deleterious effects of a constant onslaught from an unknown force. The woman, Karen Byrne, had just recovered from brain surgery when she awoke to find that her hand had spontaneously started attacking her. Doctors suspect that the disorder may have come about as a result of an injury to her corpus callosum, a part of the brain that is made up of tiny fibers that connect the two hemispheres.
Until Karen’s hand started moving on its own, the surgery had been thought to be a success. But when her own hand started attempting to undress her and then subsequently started attacking her face it was clear that something had gone wrong during the surgery. Though Karen’s epilepsy had been cured her left hand and occasionally her left leg were now acting seemingly of their own volition.
Though doctors have prescribed a new medication that seems to have the alien hand under control, there is no way of knowing if the disorder is under control or not yet. Only time will tell.
Alien hand syndrome has been a rare but notable disease both for its strange nature and its relation to more supernatural disorders such as demonic possession. Once thought to be caused by the habitation of demons in the body, the disease was once treated with exorcisms and even in some extreme cases amputation. Luckily today the disease is often treated simply with medication as in the case of Karen Byrne.
But what causes this mysterious illness? One theory posited by neurologists has it that the syndrome may be caused by a lack of differentiation by the brain between intended action and the actions that the body eventually translates into motor function. The simplest whim from the subconscious, according to this theory could spill over the brain and into motor function resulting in strange and often nonsensical actions being taken by the limbs in a way that is both disturbing and mysterious. Of course this is largely speculation, and it’s mostly unknown why the syndrome only affects part of the body.
For Karen it’s a mystery that has taken center stage in her life. But even though the syndrome is deleterious to her quality of life, with medication she hopes it will remain under control. And while epilepsy can be dangerous to the sufferer, Alien Hand Syndrome rarely results in death. Of course this is little comfort to its sufferers.