Sunday, January 20, 2013

Alien Hand Syndrome Examined On 'Stuff You Should Know'

It's a case of, literally, one hand not knowing what the other is doing. Known as Alien Hand Syndrome (AHS), this rare medical condition causes a person's hand to involuntarily cause havoc, as if it were under the control of a, well, alien influence.

With only about 50 recorded cases since AHS was first detected in 1909, the general symptoms include the sudden reaching or grabbing or hitting oneself (or another person), or even attempting to choke or rip clothing.

The syndrome has become evident in rare cases after some trauma to the brain or following a stroke or brain infection. Patients have reported one of their arms and hands feeling disconnected to their brain as it appears to take on a life of its own.

This still-not-fully-understood problem is the centerpiece of the first episode of "Stuff You Should Know," a new series premiering Saturday on the Science Channel.

The weekly program, based on the popular podcast of the same name, is hosted by Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant (pictured above left and right, respectively), and follows them through what's essentially a fictional world of their podcast.

In the opening episode, a man allegedly suffering from AHS, arrives at Clark's and Bryant's Atlanta-based podcast factory, where several moments of extreme AHS come alive, and, for a short time, viewers may not fully get that the AHS victim is, in fact, an actor, Mark Ashworth, who was recruited for the segment.

But are Clark and Bryant making fun of an affliction which is considered more a personal nuisance than threat to those few victims of it?

Even Hollywood has climbed on board the "hand" wagon in its depiction of AHS in movies like 1964's "Dr. Strangelove," 1987's "Evil Dead II" and 1999's "Idle Hands."

"It's so rare, and it's not dangerous or debilitating. It's more of a curiosity and a nuisance than anything. So, we didn't feel like we were making fun of a disability. We didn't feel like we had to tread too lightly there," Bryant told The Huffington Post.

"Also, we are extraordinarily tolerant and we preach tolerance and respect and understanding for other cultures, religions, belief systems, and people with disabilities," Clark said. "The premise of the TV show, of the action in this episode, is funny, but at the same time, I don't think at any point we really crossed any line and we're making fun of people with alien hand syndrome."


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