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Alien Hand Syndrome

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posted on Aug, 23 2009 @ 01:41 AM
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Preface:
The reason I'm making this thread is because over the last few days I've found myself having the same argument three times with three different people. Each time the argument went down the same road and each time the member either was unable to or refused to grasp the significance of this condition in the context of the arguments. The reason this thread is in 'Psychology, Philosophy and Metaphysics' instead of the medicine forum is because of this conditions ramifications in the debate of whether or not consciousness is produced materialistically by the brain.


So, onwards...


Alien Hand Syndrome



Alien Hand Syndrome, also known as Anarchic Hand Syndrome, Dr. Strangelove Syndrome or AHS (as I will refer is for this thread) is a very interesting and rare condition where a person's arm attains an autonomous will, discrete from the will of the person it belongs to.

A person with the alien hand syndrome can feel sensation in the affected hand but thinks that the hand is not part of their body and that they have no control over its movement, that it belongs to an alien.
[Medicine.net]

The main type of AHS I will be focusing on for the thread is that produced Corpus callosotomy in Split-brain patients. So first a quick over view of the Split-brain and Corpus Callosotomy.




Corpus Callosotomy

The Corpus Callosum is the conjunction tissue between the two hemispheres of the brain, seen here.

It's function is effectively to enable communication between the two hemispheres of the brain. The reason this is important is because the hemispheres are not identical (which I'll cover in a second).


Corpus callosotomy is a treatment for epilepsy, in which a group of fibers connecting the two sides of the brain, called the corpus callosum, is cut.
[enotes.com]

By severing communication between the hemispheres the patient gains a condition known as Split-brain.



Split-Brain

Split-brain is a significant condition to have because what's known as Lateralisation of Function. In short, the left side of the body is controlled by the right hemisphere and the right side, the left hemisphere. This division is also true of sense and perception. The left side of your visual field (of each eye) is processed in the right hemisphere and the reverse for the other side of your visual field.


However the functions on each side is not strictly mirrored in some cases.

Linear reasoning and language functions such as grammar and vocabulary often are lateralized to the left hemisphere of the brain.
Other integrative functions, including arithmetic, binaural sound localization, and emotions, seem more bilaterally controlled.
[Wikipedia]

When a split brain patient talks, their left brain is talking. Therefore when asked what they see in their left hemifield, their right hemisphere is not able to tell their left hemisphere what is in that field - they respond "I don't know" or the guess. But when asked to draw with their left hand (right hemisphere) they can draw the object.

Excerpt from Documentary about AHS
I'm sorry. I don't know why it's not embedding properly but it isn't.



AHS

When all goes well, Split-brain patients learn to adjust to their internal cognitive dissonance and the two hemispheres work more or less harmoniously but occasionally the mute hemisphere, although unheard, may be seen.

Cognitively, apart from language, maths and a few other things, the 2 hemispheres are relatively the same in nature and feeling, however without the language functions typically isolated in the left hemisphere, it is doubtful that the right hemisphere experiences logical, linear thoughts, perhaps rendering it semi-conscious. However one thing that has been seen is that the left hand under the control of the right hemisphere can perform complex and useful tasks like dressing, using tools, operating gear levers, etc. so will comply with the will of the 'speaking' hemisphere. This means that ultimately a person with Split-brain can function fairly normally.

Complications arise as the mute hemisphere will often act compulsively but irrationally (undoing buttons as they are done up, taking items of the shelf and putting them into a trolley, etc.) and so may be active, doing things that the owner of the limb is unaware of until made aware of it's activity or sees it directly. This behaviour can be embarrassing as one 73 year old man found out when his alien hand decided to publicly masturbate.




Divided Mind

The idea of the nature of the altered minds of each hemisphere is very intriguing. With the logic of language that the left hemisphere possesses, the mind of the previous 'whole' individual remains largely intact. So what does that mean our internal mute brother thinks? How that hemisphere chooses to express itself offers a tantalising clue. One would venture a guess of 'not much', or at least nothing complex as judging by it's behaviour, mostly it's just reacting or even playing/fidgeting with it's surrounding.

One thing is for sure, having a hand that acts autonomously would be a very strange and unique experience.

Useful links.
AHS on Wiki
Split-Brain on Wiki
Lateralization of Function on Wiki
AHS on DamnInteresing

[edit on 23-8-2009 by Welfhard]




posted on Aug, 23 2009 @ 02:28 AM
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I have a feeling that the way our brains truly function is so complex that it would be hard for us to fully grasp. The amount of logic, redundancy and processing power required to produce sentient thought processes has to be mind boggling.

I think that it's even more granular than you think. I think that the brain is so advanced, that individual centers have the ability to reason, like an person.

I can't tell you how many times I find myself arguing about something in my head and it feels like I'm discussing it among several people. I'm not talking about voices, I'm talking about presence. When I'm making a decision, my conscience doesn't come to me as a thought, it feels like someone critiquing my thought process.

Perhaps in the case of AHS, it's the motor center taking control when it's unable to fully communicate with the entire brain. Maybe it's executing redundancy logic.

So who knows, I'm just speculating here.



posted on Aug, 23 2009 @ 02:40 AM
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reply to post by upgrayedd
 


I can't tell you how many times I find myself arguing about something in my head and it feels like I'm discussing it among several people. I'm not talking about voices, I'm talking about presence. When I'm making a decision, my conscience doesn't come to me as a thought, it feels like someone critiquing my thought process.


Around about half of 4 y/os have imaginary friends. Have you ever sat and watched a child play with their imaginary friend? It's amazing. This 'being' can have it's own personality, likes & dislikes, "appearance" and behaviours that are distinct from the child. It's more than a vivid imagination, their brains are clearly able to generate unique and detailed characters from virtually nothing.

I'm certain that these capacities are drawn on when we are deliberating on something, drawing on many facets of our character at one time to make a decision.

[edit on 23-8-2009 by Welfhard]



posted on Aug, 23 2009 @ 03:55 AM
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Good thread, I love this stuff...

I had bookmarked an article, along these lines, different but yet similar:
Sleight Of Hand And Sense Of Self: Illusion Isn't Always Just In The Mind


An illusion that tricks people into believing a rubber hand belongs to them isn't all in the mind, Oxford University researchers have found ...
The rubber-hand illusion involves placing a rubber hand in front of the participant in their field of vision and near to their real hand...

Please visit the link provided for the complete story.


The mind is strong, yup-yup...



posted on Aug, 23 2009 @ 04:58 PM
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Originally posted by upgrayedd
I have a feeling that the way our brains truly function is so complex that it would be hard for us to fully grasp. The amount of logic, redundancy and processing power required to produce sentient thought processes has to be mind boggling.

I think that it's even more granular than you think. I think that the brain is so advanced, that individual centers have the ability to reason, like an person.

I can't tell you how many times I find myself arguing about something in my head and it feels like I'm discussing it among several people. I'm not talking about voices, I'm talking about presence. When I'm making a decision, my conscience doesn't come to me as a thought, it feels like someone critiquing my thought process.

Perhaps in the case of AHS, it's the motor center taking control when it's unable to fully communicate with the entire brain. Maybe it's executing redundancy logic.

So who knows, I'm just speculating here.


I tend to agree with this concept of consciousness - I don't "hear" a voice telling me do this or don't do this, it's like a series of suggestions and options being put forth, analyzed, and eventually "the best" options are acted up.

Obviously the "best" does not always mean good or moral.

I don't believe consciousness is one process or mechanism, but rather the whole brain's function. I was reading an article on the idea that the previously conceived concepts of "one area equals one function", is perhaps misguided.

Yes certain lobes do contain or store specific information (linguistics, math, emotion, personality, etc), however, in the article, they preformed a study where they did MRI testing on patients, trying to pinpoint each specific category of information, and found, multiple parts of the brain are turned on when, for example, someone is doing algebra.
This is also very hard to extrapolate from: ofcourse various parts of the brain or turned on all the time, so it would be hard to tell.

Basically the study was trying to show us that our brain isn't a bunch of separate, specific parts, but a cooperative, mutually (most of the time) cohesive 3D puzzle.

Somewhere, in between all these operations and interactions, consciousness arises.

I believe it was called "Your Brain: A User's Guide", by Time.
(One of several interesting articles)

With regards to cutting someone's Corpus Callosum, this eliminates, I believe, the main avenue for communication between the two hemispheres.
Such a change in the brain could result in some bizarre consequences.

To be honest I didn't even know the idea of "idle hand" was real, but I'm not surprised. Cutting the hemispheres off from each other is like cutting our consciousness in two.

Edit:
Also of note: Kim Peak, regarded as the world's smartest man (who is a savant), has an irregular Corpus Callosum...I think it's much less developed that most humans.

Scientists have proposed a smaller "bridge" allows information to be transferred more quickly and efficiently than in the average human.
Which is a probable reason as to why savants can perform outrageous feats of number calculation and memory retrieval.

However, somewhere in this "mutation", emotion and social skills are lost, and the result is the idiot-savant, for lack of a more pleasant term.

Very interesting I think.
By doing away with the bridge, some interactions excel, whilst others diminish.


[edit on 23-8-2009 by makinho21]



posted on Aug, 23 2009 @ 05:11 PM
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reply to post by makinho21
 


I don't believe consciousness is one process or mechanism, but rather the whole brain's function. I was reading a article on the idea that the previously conceived concepts of "one area equals one function", is perhaps misguided.

Yes certain lobes do contain or store specific information (linguistics, math, emotion, personality, etc), however, in the article, they preformed a study where they did an MRI trying to pinpoint each specific categoryof information, and found, multiple parts of the brain are turned on when, for example, someone is doing algebra.
This is also very hard to extrapolate from: ofcourse various parts of the brain or turned on all the time, so it would be hard to tell.

Basically the study was trying to show us that our brain isn't a bunch of separate, specific parts, but a cooperative, mutually (most of the time) cohesive 3D puzzle.

Somewhere, in between all these operations and interactions, consciousness arises.


I think consciousness is a false concept because it mainly draws on the idea of "being aware" but most of the things tied to consciousness are either unconscious or semi-conscious behaviours. In a casual conversation things you say can be merely a reaction to the context. The way you phrase and word sentences you won't strictly think about (cept for when you are trying to be tactful) so you'll just conceptualise the meaning of what you want to express and the language centres will do the rest. Then there is mannerisms and body language - actors have to train to be fully aware of these things. Negotiating your way through a crowded hallway or traffic - the list goes on, and when you really think about it suddenly you wonder "How conscious are we really?"

An effective test for what you are aware of is memory - what can you recall about your day without trouble. You won't remember what you said word for word but you'll know what you meant, you won't remember when and where you itched your arm or face or whatever but you may recall that you did. Numbers you'll remember, how much the coffee cost, what time you got on the bus, etc. You'll also recall where you went but you couldn't recall your footing of your journey.

99% of the world gets filtered out and all consciousness may actually be what your brain decides is the most crucial information to leave one aware of.


Basically the study was trying to show us that our brain isn't a bunch of separate, specific parts, but a cooperative, mutually (most of the time) cohesive 3D puzzle.

This, I think, is typical of evolution. A specific function is or functions are shaped by natural selection but the structures and features on which that function is built is largely vestigial and has redundant parts or attributes.

It's like building a building for one reason, then decommissioning it and altering it a bit for a new purpose, doing it again and again and again. Until the final product does it's jobs but has a lot of useless or redundant parts from all the previous uses.

The evolution of the brain is a similar thing except is on a complexity scale far greater than any building.

Skip to precisely 04:06

Then watch this - skip to 05:38

Then watch until about 30 seconds in (unless you wanna see the whole thing ^_^).


Clearly what happens is that when a function is being shaped by evolution, the parts of the brain utilised so many bits all about the brain could contribute for one and many specific functions. From the outside, peering inwards trying to map these functions to discrete regions as if the brain was designed, top to bottom, to do what it now does - if this were true and our brains were so ordered then I would imagine that they would be much smaller.


Which is a probable reason as to why savants can perform outrageous feats of number calculation and memory retrieval.

However, somewhere in this "mutation", emotion and social skills are lost, and the result is the idiot-savant, for lack of a more pleasant term.

It's also theorised that autistic savants have an advanced form of mathematical synaesthesia like in the case of Daniel Tammet..

Daniel Paul Tammet (born 31 January 1979) is a British prodigious Savant (high-functioning autistic savant) gifted with a facility for mathematical and natural language learning. He was born Daniel Corney (later deciding to change his surname to Tammet), the first of nine children, to working-class parents in London.[1] In his memoir, Born on a Blue Day, he talks about how having epilepsy, synaesthesia, and Asperger Syndrome deeply affected his childhood.
[Wiki]

[edit on 23-8-2009 by Welfhard]



posted on Aug, 23 2009 @ 05:18 PM
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I was drawn into this thread by its title because I watch House (TV Show).



This episode explained how the right and left sides of your brain work and don't work. If the sides are not in harmony then one side of your brain can conflict with the other side. Really weird but awesome stuff.

More from House here.



posted on Aug, 23 2009 @ 05:25 PM
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I've had times in the past few years that I was having control problems like that. But not to the extent that I had no control over the arm or hand as if remotely. I've seen a few videos of animals, such as dogs that have this. Usually one of their rear legs. It's been on Americas Funniest Videos, but it does bother me, even though they laugh about it.

They've been working more and more on the brain and I don't doubt that one day they'll even transfer conciosuness into something artifical as if proving immortality. Some stories of ETs have also done this and biblical records suggest possessions. OOBE etc.

I'm curious about FMRI and people with DID or alternate/multiple personalites.



posted on Aug, 23 2009 @ 05:37 PM
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reply to post by Rhain
 


House is a great show and I got really excited when they got a split brain patient on. However, House's "issue" really got in the way I think, as crucial as it was, I wanted to see an episode focused on that particular patient rather than House.

I do think they embroidered AHS a bit for the show. The Alien hand was too smart I think to be realistic.

[edit on 23-8-2009 by Welfhard]



posted on Aug, 23 2009 @ 06:13 PM
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I found this on youtube..




Also doing some thinking into the motivation of an autonomous hand. Earlier in the year in my Pysch 101 lectures, when were taught about deficits that people have from brain damage dependant on degree and area.

One particular one was interesting in that when one specific region to the brain was damaged, a person became obsessive compulsive. If they saw a hammer and a nail they couldn't restrain the impulse to hammer the nail and hang the picture on the wall. They saw an envelop, they'd lick and seal it, turn on taps, flick light switches etc.

There were also individuals of another deficiency where they would imitate things they saw people doing without as they lost their restraint.
Unfortunately I can't remember the names of the disorders but I'll look through my notes.

I think that the behaviour of an autonomous hand would be produced largely by such loss-of-restraint deficiencies and hence be fairly irrational.



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