The term 'split hand' refers to a pattern of dissociated atrophy of hand muscles and was first described in ALS. We hypothesize that this phenomenon also occurs in 'normal' aging. We investigated healthy subjects of different ages and found a progressive dissociation in atrophy of the hand muscles, as measured with compound muscle action potential amplitudes, with increasing age. Different possible causes of this progressive dissociation are discussed. It might be related to preferential use of thenar muscles in humans, which render these muscles and their motor neurons more susceptible to oxidative stress. In addition, a difference in intrinsic susceptibility to oxidative stress might be involved. The relation between normal age-related muscle loss (sarcopenia) and the pathologic loss in motor neuron disease is discussed.