Exaggerated object affordance and absent automatic inhibition in alien hand syndrome.
McBride J., Sumner P., Jackson SR., Bajaj N., Husain M.
Patients with alien hand syndrome (AHS) experience making apparently deliberate and purposeful movements with their hand against their will. However, the mechanisms contributing to these involuntary actions remain poorly understood. Here, we describe two experimental investigations in a patient with corticobasal syndrome (CBS) with alien hand behaviour in her right hand. First, we show that responses with the alien hand are made significantly more quickly to images of objects which afford an action with that hand compared to objects which afford an action with the unaffected hand. This finding suggests that involuntary grasping behaviours in AHS might be due to exaggerated, automatic motor activation evoked by objects which afford actions with that limb. Second, using a backwards masked priming task, we found normal automatic inhibition of primed responses in the patient's unaffected hand, but importantly there was no evidence of such suppression in the alien limb. Taken together, these findings suggest that grasping behaviours in AHS may result from exaggerated object affordance effects, which might potentially arise from disrupted inhibition of automatically evoked responses.