A Critical Review of Alien Limb-Related Phenomena and Implications for Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging Studies

Vincenzo Di Stefano, Astrid Thomas, Fedele Dono, Vincenzo Di Stefano, Claudia Carrarini, Mirella Russo, Roberta Telese, Martina Di Pietro, Raffaella Franciotti, Laura Bonanni, Stefano L. Sensi, Marco Onofrj

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Consensus criteria on corticobasal degeneration (CBD) include alien limb (AL) phenomena. However, the gist of the behavioral features of AL is still “a matter of debate.” CBD-related AL has so far included the description of involuntary movements, frontal release phenomena (frontal AL), or asomatognosia (posterior or “real” AL). In this context, the most frequent symptoms are language and praxis deficits and cortical sensory misperception. However, asomatognosia requires, by definition, intact perception and cognition. Thus, to make a proper diagnosis of AL in the context of CBD, cognitive and language dysfunctions must be carefully verified and objectively assessed. We reviewed the current literature on AL in CBD and now propose that the generic use of the term AL should be avoided. This catchall AL term should instead be deconstructed. We propose that the term AL is appropriate to describe clinical features associated with specific brain lesions. More discrete sets of regionally bound clinical signs that depend on dysfunctions of specific brain areas need to be assessed and presented when posing the diagnosis. Thus, in our opinion, the AL term should be employed in association with precise descriptions of the accompanying involuntary movements, sensory misperceptions, agnosia-asomatognosia contents, and the presence of utilization behavior. The review also offers an overview of functional magnetic resonance imaging-based studies evaluating AL-related phenomena. In addition, we provide a complementary set of video clips depicting CBD-related involuntary movements that should not mistakenly be interpreted as signs of AL.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)661130-
Number of pages11
JournalFrontiers in Neurology
Publication statusPublished - 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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