Our body is equipped with many reflexes that are present at birth and in healthy people eventually disappear in a few short years, which includes the Babinski reflex, and our reflexes serve as protectors and markers of health. Reflexes may take the form of a sneeze to a nasal irritation or when the pupil of our eye enlarges allowing us to see in the dark.
Reflexes protect us from danger such as moving our hand from hot water or turning away from a flying object. One of the most common reflexes is the patellar reflex also known as the knee jerk. All of these are normal responses that when absent would either result in bodily harm or indicate a health problem. The Babinski reflex is a normal finding in infants 2 years old and younger; however, this reflex soon disappears and its presence later is the sign of a central nervous system lesion.
What is the Babinski Reflex?
With the Babinski reflex, the big toe bends upward with stroking the sole of the foot. The Babinski reflex, rooting reflex and Moro reflex are all reflex signs seen in healthy infants. A physician will perform a reflex test to determine an infant’s health. When brushing the cheek or mouth, the infant’s head turns toward the stimulus in the rooting reflex. The Moro reflex is also referred to as the startle reflex because the infant is stimulated by a loud noise.
When is the Babinski Reflex Abnormal?
The presence of this plantar reflex in anyone but infants 2 years old and under reveals the presence of a central nervous system lesion of the brain or spinal cord. These pathways, known as pyramidal tracts, are composed of many nerves that send messages to create our body’s movement. The medulla oblongata pyramidal tract and spinal cord pyramidal tract are the usual sites for a lesion. A Babinski sign observed in only one foot is not normal and may help pinpoint which side of the body is affected. There are many causes for the presence of a Babinski reflex including a head injury, brain tumor or meningitis.
With regular doctor visits, your healthcare provider will monitor any unusual signs or symptoms; however, communicating health issues will help your doctor determine the cause. Always remember to take charge of your own health and aim for a healthy lifestyle that includes regular checkups and exercise.