Causes of AHS:
Different types of brain injuries cause different subtypes alien hand syndrome:
Damage to the corpus callosum can give rise to "purposeful" actions in the sufferer's non-dominant hand (an individual who is left-hemisphere-dominant will experience the left hand becoming alien, and the right hand will turn alien in the person with right-hemisphere dominance).In “the callosal variant”, the patient’s hand counteracts voluntary actions performed by the other, “good” hand. Two phenomena that are often found in patients with callosal alien hand are agonistic dyspraxia and diagonistic dyspraxia.
Unilateral injury to the mesial aspect of the brain's frontal lobe can trigger reaching, grasping and other purposeful movements in the contralateral hand. With anteromedial frontal lobe injuries, these movements are often exploratory reaching movements in which external objects are frequently grasped and utilized functionally, without the simultaneous perception on the part of the patient that they are "in control" of these movements. Once an object has been acquired and is maintained in the grasp of this "frontal variant" form of alien hand, the patient often has difficulty with voluntarily releasing the object from grasp and can sometimes be seen to be peeling the fingers of the hand back off the grasped object using the opposite controlled hand to enable the release of the grasped object (also referred to as tonic grasping or the 'instinctive grasp reaction').
Parietal and occipital lobes:
A distinct "posterior variant" form of alien hand syndrome is associated with damage to the posterolateral parietal lobe and/or occipital lobe of the brain. The movements in this situation tend to be more likely to withdraw the palmar surface of the hand away from sustained environmental contact rather than reaching out to grasp onto objects to produce palmar tactile stimulation, as is most often seen in the frontal form of the condition. In the frontal variant, tactile contact on the ventral surface of the palm and fingers facilitates finger flexion and grasp of the object through a positive feedback loop (i.e. the stimulus generates movement that reinforces, strengthens and sustains the triggering stimulation).
Similarities between frontal and posterior variants:
In both the frontal and the posterior variants of the alien hand syndrome, the patient's reactions to the limb's apparent capability to perform goal-directed actions independent of conscious volition is similar. In both of these variants of alien hand syndrome, the alien hand emerges in the hand collateral to the damaged hemisphere.