The so-weird-you-think-it’s-fake-but-it’s-real disorder of the day is alien hand syndrome. Remember Peter Sellers in Dr. Strangelove, how his crazy black-gloved hand would spring up into a Nazi salute, or try to strangle him? Yeah, so it turns out that really happens. It’s an actual neurological condition that affects people all over the world, and it is no laughing matter. Though, just between us, I think it’s pretty fucking funny.
Alien hand can be triggered by a stroke, complications due to brain surgery, or anything else that causes an injury to the corpus callosum, the bundle of nerve fibers that connects the right half of the brain with the left. It most often results when a patient has the two hemisphere of the brain surgically separated, which is sometimes done to relieve the symptoms of epilepsy, though don’t ask me how the hell that’s supposed to work. Alien hands seem to act completely apart, and often directly contrary to, the will of the person. And it isn’t just crude, reflexive behavior, like muscle spasms, that they’re capable of; alien hands can perform complex manual tasks, like buttoning or unbuttoning shirts, or manipulating tools.
The medical term for what Dr. Strangelove was experiencing with his alien hand is “intermanual conflict.” Simply put, the alien hand acts in opposition to the normal, “controlled” hand. Sufferers of this disorder feel sensation in the alien hand, but are often unable to control it. Patients who have their alien hand syndrome triggered by a frontal lobe injury report their alien hands reaching out and grasping at nearby objects, then refusing to relinquish them, forcing the patient to forcibly peel back the fingers of the alien hand to release the object.
There is no known cure or treatment for alien hand syndrome. I’m not sure there ever will be, since it gives such joy to those of us not affected by it. Right now, the best way to keep alien hands under control seems to be to keep them occupied. Idle alien hands are the devil’s playthings, afterall. If your alien hand likes to reach out and grab things, give it something to hold. The Wikipedia article on the subject mentions a cane as an example, though I doubt that would have much helped poor Dr. Strangelove, whose alien hand would have loved to get its fingers around a weapon of any sort.
In the privacy of your own home, there is another activity with which to keep your alien hand occupied, and I think we all know where I’m going with this. You lucky alien hand syndrome sufferers don’t need to sit on your hands to give yourselves a stranger — just talk real sweet to that alien hand, caress it, rub some lotion on it, let it know it’s the only wayward prehensile manipulative organ you have eyes for. Then sit back on the couch, relax, and enjoy that happy ending when it comes. And it will.