Crossed extension reflex

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Crossed Extension Reflex is a fundamental neurological reflex pivotal in coordinating limb movements, especially during locomotion. This reflex is an example of a polysynaptic reflex, involving multiple synapses between neurons within the central nervous system (CNS). It plays a critical role in maintaining balance and posture by coordinating opposite limb responses to stimuli.

Overview[edit | edit source]

The crossed extension reflex is initiated when a painful stimulus is applied to one limb, leading to the flexion (withdrawal) of that limb and the simultaneous extension of the opposite limb. This action helps in maintaining balance and protecting the body from harm. The reflex involves the activation of afferent neurons (sensory neurons) that convey the stimulus information to the spinal cord, where interneurons mediate the response by activating efferent neurons (motor neurons) that control the muscles in the limbs.

Mechanism[edit | edit source]

The mechanism of the crossed extension reflex involves several key steps:

  1. A noxious (painful) stimulus is detected by sensory receptors in the skin of one limb.
  2. This stimulus activates afferent neurons that transmit the signal to the spinal cord.
  3. Within the spinal cord, the signal is processed by interneurons. Some of these interneurons cross to the opposite side of the spinal cord (hence the term "crossed") to activate efferent neurons.
  4. Efferent neurons then stimulate the muscles in the opposite limb to extend, while the muscles in the limb receiving the stimulus contract (flex) to withdraw from the stimulus.

This reflex is an example of the complex interactions within the CNS that enable coordinated movements and responses to external stimuli.

Clinical Significance[edit | edit source]

The crossed extension reflex is used clinically to assess the integrity of the spinal cord and the neurological system. Abnormalities or absence of this reflex can indicate neurological disorders or damage to the spinal cord. It is particularly examined in infants to assess neurological development and function.

See Also[edit | edit source]

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Contributors: Prab R. Tumpati, MD