5 Horrific Ways Your Brain Can Turn On You Without Warning

We hate for you to find out this way, but you should know that your brain hates you. Even if you're perfectly healthy and have never had a mental illness or dropped acid, it can mess with you in a terrifying variety of ways.

And some of them are downright diabolical.

#5. Exploding Head Syndrome

What Is It?

It's a typical night. You've just set aside your glass of scotch and are reclining in bed next to yet another nameless groupie you've just had acrobatic sex with. You click off the lamp and are drifting off to sleep...

And a fucking bomb goes off in your head. There's a horrendous noise, like someone is firing a handgun from somewhere inside your skull and then a flash of light ...

... And suddenly, it's over again. Your heart is pounding. You look around the room blinking, shocked to find that your brains aren't splattered all over the bedroom. Physically, you appear perfectly fine.

Congratulations, you've just experienced a random occurrence of Exploding Head Syndrome and, yes, it's totally a real thing.

Wait, What's Going On?

Well, no one is really sure. Physicians think there's a link to stress or extreme fatigue (surely you've heard the common saying, "Man, I'm so tired, my brain is going to fucking explode!"). They think physically it may also be caused by an inner ear problem, or possibly a form of minor seizure in the temporal lobe. But don't worry, according to Wikipedia, "it is not thought to be dangerous [citation needed]."

The noise itself can be an explosion, or a roar, or waves, or a gunshot, or an electrical zapping. But it will always be loud, like pants-shittingly loud, and it's not a dream. We're just barely exaggerating about the pants-shitting thing, too--the experience is said to be followed by a rush of adrenaline, an elevated heart rate and terror (well duh).

It may only happen once, it may happen several times. EHS is usually random, even happening when a person is fully awake. Whoa, what if it happened right when you were in the middle of defusing a bomb?

Can it Happen to You?

It's rare, and found mostly in those over age 50. It's a little more common in women than men, and seems to come along with pre-existing sleep problems. Otherwise, who knows? It's so rare and so random that they haven't been able to document many cases of it. If you're out there and this is happening to you every night, there's probably someone with a scalpel who would love to take a look under the hood.

#4. Alice in Wonderland Syndrome

What Is It?

It's the next day. You wake up with a terrible headache. You roll out of bed, stumble into the hall...

...only to find the hallway is about a hundred miles long, the end vanishing into the horizon. What the hell? You look down. Wait a second... the floor is only an inch away from your face. The hallway isn't longer, you're just tiny. Your cat trots by, and you are unsurprised to find it is the size of a woolly mammoth.


A moment later, everything is back to normal. We hope you enjoyed your bout of Alice in Wonderland Syndrome.

Wait, What's Going On?

In this bizarre condition, you don't just see everything as if it's much larger or smaller than it actually is, you completely perceive everything as larger or smaller, including your own damned body.

It's not a hallucination, and your eyes are working just fine. Everything you see and touch is really there. Unfortunately, you just became either Gulliver, or one of the title characters in Honey I Shrunk the Kids, or both at the same time.

Experts think it's due to a malfunction of a part of the brain called the parietal lobe, which is in charge of keeping track of where your body is versus all the stuff in your environment you're trying to avoid running into. When it goes astray, your whole spatial awareness goes berserk. Your front door can appear to be the size of your fist, a cockroach as big as a dog.

Can it Happen to You?

Yep.

AIWS can be triggered by all sorts of things, including psychoactive drugs or the Epstein-Barr Virus (also known as "mono"). But it can happen even without that and, in fact, one of the most common causes is migraines.

The bad news is there's no cure, the good news is it always goes away on its own after a short time. Though those words may not be as comforting coming from a doctor who's towering five-stories above you.

#3. Phantom Extra Limb Syndrome

What Is It?

You've just sat down to watch the Ace of Cakes marathon. You rest your chin on your hand, thoughtfully. You look down at your other hand and notice you should probably trim your fingernails. You look down at your other hand and notice... that you seem to have three hands.

In fact, the hand that's touching your chin is invisible, even though you can feel and move it. You can now tell your friends you've experienced phantom extra limb syndrome.

Wait, What's Going On?

Meet the sensory homunculus:

That's a model that demonstrates how you would look if you were shaped the way your brain sees you. That is, your brain devotes more power to tracking sensory data from your hands than, say, your ankles. The brain devotes quite a bit of effort to tracking your limbs and the information gained from them. For instance, it knows how close your hands are to the woman's boobies, so that you caress them instead of slapping them, and transmits the touch sensation back to your brain accordingly.

Regular old phantom limb syndrome happens when you lose a limb; the brain sensory cortex doesn't always come to terms with that news very well and goes into a kind of denial. The end result is you feeling sensation, mostly pain, in the missing limb.

But then, in rare cases, you get phantom extra limb syndrome. This happens in people who have not had anything amputated and in those cases the sensory cortex is so messed up it just manufactures an extra limb out of thin air.

Some patients have felt an extra arm or leg branching off from their existing limb, others have felt a third arm growing out of their chest. One patient even claimed he could see a third hand. So you can't underestimate how freaking convincing the sensation is. As far as your body knows, you've got the extra limb. Some patients even accused the hospital of stitching on an extra leg (why? To pad the bill?).

By the way, one woman said she had lost control of her third arm and that it was now trying to strangle her. Holy shit!

Can it Happen to You?

The regular variety of phantom limb syndrome, where you think a limb is still there after amputation, is extremely common in amputees (50 percent to 80 percent). The extra limb variety seems to only occur due to some kind of brain damage, such as in the aftermath of a stroke. So, if you get into a bar brawl and some guy cracks you over the head with a crowbar, make sure the fist you're hitting him with actually exists. Otherwise you'll just look ridiculous.

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