Is It Beneficial To Have Six Fingers On Each Hand?

By Eddie Gonzales Jr.

Some persons are born with extra fingers or toes.

Polydactyly is a rare, extraordinary condition, which is still poorly understood and some people believe it’s an anomaly or a deformity. Physicians say they can surgically remove the sixth toe or finger, because they do not consider it particularly useful.

Earlier studies  showed that approximately one in every 700–1,000 babies is born with polydactyly.

However, if a person decides to live with polydactyly, a questions remains whether this rare condition bring some practical benefits.

A study from the University of Freiburg in Germany says that people with polydactyly have more handiness in their movements than their counterparts with five fingers.

Participants in the experiment were a 52-year-old woman and her 17-year-old son (both with six fingers on each hand). They performed various tasks and their brain activity was monitored using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).

The experiment shows that these two individuals can significantly extend the manipulation abilities and skills. An extra finger enables people with six fingers to perform movements with one hand where people with only five fingers would need two hands.

The right hand’s anatomy with six fingers.

The right hand’s anatomy with six fingers. Image credit and description – here

“We wanted to know if the subjects have motor skills that go beyond people with five fingers and how the brain is able to control the additional degrees of freedom,” explains Prof. Dr. Carsten Mehring from the University of Freiburg and the Bernstein Center Freiburg.

Additionally, researchers observed that these people need to control extra fingers; however, this doesn’t put an extra stress on their brain. Extra fingers are moved by own muscles. This allows the subjects to move their extra fingers as far as possible independently of all other fingers.

“Our subjects can use their extra fingers independently, similar to an additional thumb, either alone or together with the other five fingers, which makes manipulation extraordinary versatile and skilful.

For instance, in our experiments subjects can carry out a task with one hand, for which we normally need two hands,” Professor Mehring added in a press release.


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