Would you believe me if I told you there was once a case of a young man who was admitted to a hospital for some tests and at night suddenly fell out of his bed?
Of course you would.
What if, this time, I told you the young man refused to go back to his bed and told the doctor that he had a feeling of a “lazy” left leg and also the leg wasn’t his but someone else’s?
Probably it would be hard for you to believe me this time. If not hard at least you’re confused.
The case is real and talked about by Dr Oliver Sacks in his famous book “The Man Who Mistook his wife for a Hat”. Dr Oliver Sacks was a neurologist and an author. He had spent almost 50 years working as a neurologist and wrote many books including The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat, Musicophilia, Awakenings and Hallucinations among many others. The New York Times referred to him as ‘the poet laureate of medicine’. He was well known for his series of non-fictional books on interesting cases in psychiatry and neurology.
As mentioned before, this interesting case is of a young man who came to a hospital for some tests. While asleep at night, he woke up all of a sudden. He had expressions of anger, alarm, bewilderment and amusement. Dr Sacks was still a medical student at that time and he was called in immediately. The patient complained that his left leg felt lazy and it wasn’t his leg at all. It belonged to someone else. He complained of his own leg as ‘a severed leg, a horrible thing!’ After some time he realized what had actually happened and said: it was all a joke!! He further said that it was a New Year’s Eve and half the staff was drunk. He was confident about one of the nurses stealing a leg and slipping it under his bedclothes while he was fast asleep. He got so angry that he started seizing it with both hands. He tried to tear it off his body but failed every time. He kept denying that it was his leg and when asked where would be his own leg be then, he said, “I don’t know. I have no idea. It’s disappeared. It’s gone. It’s nowhere to be found…”
What actually happened?
Recent research especially in neurology has a diagnosis of the case. It’s called “parietal ataxic hemiparesis”. It is believed this happens when there is damage to the right parietal lobe in the brain. The parietal lobes are located behind the frontal lobes and above the temporal lobes and are responsible for processing the sensory information, understanding spatial orientation and body awareness.
Parietal ataxic hemiparesis is considered to be a very rare condition. In some cases it has been seen that anti-epileptic drugs are effective in remedying the symptoms. Rehabilitation has also proven to be helpful in alleviating the symptoms where a combination of physical and mental exercises are used.
Human brain is very complex. It is full of mysteries. There is a lot that gets governed by our brains that we don’t even know about. But after reading about such interesting cases I realize how far we have come with our understanding on human brain.