If you think you know nothing about Alien Hand Syndrome, then you should probably think again. If you have seen the 1964 black comedy film Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, then you are familiar with the idea.

Essentially, a person’s hand starts acting on its own. It still moves and functions, but it is not under the mental control of the person anymore. Just like Dr. Strangelove’s Nazi arm, a person afflicted with this syndrome has no power over their ‘alien hand’.

This syndrome is a rare neurological disorder and is also known as anarchic hand. The alien hand syndrome was first identified in 1909 and there have only been 40 to 50 recorded cases since.

Since the condition is so rare and usually temporary due to brain damage, there is not a lot of research done on the subject. That does not mean it hasn’t been a success in popular culture, with Dr. Strangelove’s affliction being just one of many examples.

The thing that really makes alien hand syndrome strange, though, is that it can move at all. Because it is still attached to the motor strip the hand can move, but unlike other involuntary movement disorders, alien hand syndrome sufferers feel that their hand has a mind of its own.

Many people afflicted with the condition have reported the hand attacking and attempting to coke, beat, or wound them in some way. Some patients have even gone so far as to name their wayward hands, feeling that they are actually an alien entity.

Thankfully, many sufferers do not have to endure a lifetime with this condition. Damage usually heals to a degree and they get some control back over their hand. However, there is no practical treatment for the condition except for waiting when relief comes on its own.

Valerie Soleil, B.A., LL.B.

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    Scott Amundsen

    Agatha Christie uses this syndrome to chilling effect in her short story “The Fourth Man.”

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