A reflex is an automatic or involuntary body movement. The nervous system tells your body to kick, bend your toes, or otherwise move because something touched you or alerted your senses. Some reactions, such as removing your hands from a hot pan, are normal. Other automatic movements are abnormal and may be a sign of a medical condition.
This article explains the difference between normal and abnormal reflexes and explains how doctors can check for specific types of reflexes that may point to a health problem.
What is reflection?
Reflexes are movements that occur automatically, sometimes without the brain’s involvement. They allow your body to perform basic movements, such as standing upright, without you having to think about them.
The most familiar reflex is to straighten the knee when doctors tap the tendon below the kneecap with a reflex hammer. The stimulation (hammer) causes a signal to be sent through the sensory nerves to the spinal cord. The response from the spinal cord is immediately transmitted back through the motor nerves, resulting in a kick.
This communication from sensory nerves to spinal cord to motor nerves without involving the brain is called the reflex arc.
Any muscle can be tested for reflexes as long as there is a tendon that can pass the stimulus.
normal and abnormal reflexes
Many reflexes are normal. For example, the knee jerk reflex is a normal reflex, the absence of which would be considered abnormal.
Having an unusual reflex response may be a sign of disease.However, abnormal reflexes also frequently occur in healthy people who are not responding at all Neurology A disease or problem with their nervous system. If there is no clear problem with the nervous system that is causing the abnormal reflexes, the doctor will consider other symptoms, tests, or observations to determine what is causing the problem.
Newborns exhibit many unique responses, but babies grow beyond these.If infant-specific reflexes occur in adults, consideration should be given to morbidwhich means they are abnormal and may point to an underlying condition.
Reflexes are automatic physical responses to stimuli, which may include noise, bodily sensations, taste, sight, or smell. Whether your reaction is normal may depend on your age or condition. However, abnormal reflexes can be a sign of a neurological (nervous system) disease or other health condition.
The body is capable of many types of reflexes. Here are some lesser-known, seemingly strange but perfectly normal body reflexes.
This Babinski Reflexes are one of the most common reflexes a neurologist may test. During this test, the neurologist will scratch the bottom of your foot with something irritating.
In adults, the toes usually curve downward. However, usually in children 2 years and younger, the toes fan out upward. Adults may have the same reactions as infants. When this happens, it can be a sign of a stroke, tumor, inflammation around the brain, or spinal cord injury.
The mouth-nose reflex is a normal childhood reflex that usually disappears with age. If you pat the baby’s upper lip, they will close the lips into a pout similar to a pig’s nose. It may only occur on one side of the mouth (unilateral) or both sides (bilateral).
If an adult had the same reflex response to tapping the upper lip, it was considered abnormal and could indicate damage to the frontal lobe of the brain. This type of problem can be caused by frontal head trauma or frontal stroke.
What is frontal lobe brain injury?
Glabellar reflex (Myerson’s sign)
The area of the forehead above the nose and between the eyes is called Between eyebrows. Most people blink automatically when they tap between the eyebrows.
Normally, people stop blinking after a few taps, but if blinking persists, it’s called Myerson’s sign, and it’s usually caused by some kind of brain abnormality. Myerson’s sign is common in people with Parkinson’s disease.
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doctor test palm Reflexively scratch your palms and watch your jaw shake. This is an abnormal reflex that can mean brain damage. The palmo-mental reflex may affect children with Down syndrome as well as adults with Alzheimer’s disease.
Along with the oronasal reflex, the palmo-chin reflex in adults suggests possible damage to the frontal lobe of the brain. However, healthy people without brain damage may also exhibit palmar reflexes.
The anal reflex can also be called anal wink, perineum reflection, or percutaneous reflection.
This is a normal reflex, and the anal sphincter, the ring of muscles around the bottom of the anus, tightens when an irritant stimulates the area. This can include something as simple as stroking the skin around the anus.
If your muscles don’t respond to stimulation, it could mean your spinal cord injury is affecting the major nerves in your pelvis, pussy nerve.
This cremaster The reflex is in response to a light stroking of the inner thigh. In men, this causes the cremaster muscle to contract and the testicle to rise.
This reflection can disappear for a number of reasons. Brain or spinal cord injury may result in loss of the cremasteric reflex.Problems not related to the nervous system, such as testicular twisting (called testicular torsion) can also cause it.
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clonus is an overactive reflex, which means your muscles overreact to certain stimuli or move repeatedly. It can happen on its own, or it can be caused by other conditions.
Doctors can test this reflex by stimulating an area of the body, such as the knee or foot, in a way that should result in a simple reflex. If the person has an overreaction, such as persistent jerking or twitching in another body area, this may be a sign of clonus. An overreaction like this can indicate damage to the brain or spinal cord.
Clonus may be associated with upper motor neuron disease and emotional problems, such as:
- Huntington’s disease, a disease in which the nervous system slowly breaks down
- brain tumor, an abnormal growth in the brain
- Meningitis, inflammation of the fluid and tissue around the brain and spinal cord
- Serotonin syndrome, a potentially fatal buildup of serotonin in the body; sometimes seen in people treated with antidepressants
Test Hoffman’s reflex by flicking the middle or ring finger and seeing if the thumb twitches. This reflex is usually present in healthy people, but if the reflex is stronger on one side of the body than the other, it could be a sign of a brain disease. This reflex is also called the finger flexor reflex.
A stronger Hoffmann reflex on one side of the body usually indicates an injury or abnormality in the spinal cord around the neck or upper back.
Hoffman’s reflex can be due to a tumor or some other conditions, including:
- Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease
- cervical arthritis
Imaging scans are often used when trying to diagnose problems with the spinal cord. However, a physical examination to examine the Hoffmann reflex can also be used to help identify early spinal cord dysfunction.
Different types of reflexes can be signs of serious disorders related to the nervous system. Spinal cord injury is most likely to cause these abnormal reflexes, but other conditions that can cause abnormal reflexes include brain tumors, brain trauma, stroke, meningitis, or spinal cord injury. Reflexes can also be affected by serious conditions, including:
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Huntington’s disease
- multiple sclerosis
Evaluating your response can give doctors valuable clues about your health. While some areas, such as the knee and foot, are common test sites, your doctor can check your response in many other, less common areas.
Testing for reflexes can be the first step in diagnosing a spinal cord injury or neurological disorder as doctors watch your nervous system respond to different stimuli. If you don’t respond to certain tests as you should, or if you have excessive convulsions, your doctor will send you for other tests to see if there is an underlying disease or injury.