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Human flexor reflexes
  1. Bhagwan T. Shahani1,
  2. Robert R. Young2
  1. University Department of Neurology, The Churchill Hospital, Oxford


    One type of flexor reflex, that recorded from the tibialis anterior muscle in response to electrical stimulation of the sole of the foot, was studied in normal subjects and patients with several neurological disorders. Normally this reflex consists of two components, the second of which is related to the actual withdrawal. The first component, normally of lower threshold, is difficult to evoke in patients with chronic spinal cord or discrete cerebral lesions, whereas it has an unusually low threshold and is very clearly seen in those with Parkinson's disease. In patients with spinal cord disease, the exaggerated flexor reflexes are seen at long latencies after relatively small stimuli. During the early phase of recovery from spinal transection, both components may be seen and are, therefore, spinal in origin. Studies of patients with the sensory neuropathy of Friedreich's ataxia suggest that the afferent fibres responsible for these flexor reflexes are the small myelinated fibres. Recovery curves demonstrate very long-lasting changes in flexor reflex excitability in normal subjects and patients with `spasticity' from spinal lesions. This differs in patients with `spasticity' from lesions rostral to the brain-stem. Examples in man of such physiological phenomena as reciprocal inhibition, local sign, habituation, temporal and spatial summation are discussed.

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    • 1 Supported by Association for the aid of Crippled Children, New York.

      Present address: Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts 02114, U.S.A.

    • 2 Supported in part by a Special Fellowship (2F11NB1539-02) from The National Institute of Neurological Disease and Blindness.

      Present address: Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts 02114, U.S.A.