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Nervous System

Spinal Cord

How are reflexes used to diagnose diseases and disorders?

A reflex response other than the normal response may be an indication of a disorder or complication in the nervous system.

Reflex Description Disorder or Damage Indicated
Abdominal reflex Anterior stroking of the sides of lower torso causes contraction of abdominal muscles Absence of reflex indicates lesions of peripheral nerves or in reflex centers in lower thoracic segments of spinal cord; may also indicate multiple sclerosis
Plantar (Achilles) reflex Tapping of Achilles tendon of soleus and gastrocnemius muscles causes both muscles to contract, producing plantar flexion of foot Absence of reflex may indicate damage to nerves innervating posterior leg muscles or to lumbosacral neurons; may also indicate chronic diabetes, alcoholism, syphilis, or subarachnoid hemorrhage
Babinski’s reflex Stroking of lateral part of sole causes toes to curl (plantar reflex) Reflex indicates damage to upper motor neuron of pyramidal motor system
Biceps reflex Tapping of biceps tendon in elbow produces contraction of brachialis and biceps muscles, resulting in flexion at elbow Absence of reflex may indicate damage at the C5 or C6 vertebral level


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