Reflexes - Pathological, conditional, conditioned reflex

Pathological reflexes occur in the case of nerve or brain damage. The most well-known pathological reflex is the Babinski reflex, which when spreading the sole of the foot leads to extension of the big toe and flexion of all other toes. It is one of the early childhood reflexes and is usually no longer triggered after the 12th month of life.

Babinski reflex in massive brain damage

In the case of massive brain damage, which can occur after cerebral hemorrhage or stroke, a positive Babinski reflex indicates severe cerebral damage. The reflex response is always evaluated in the side comparison - ie on both arms or legs - a different reflex response, such as a one-sided attenuation or reflex enhancement, indicates a nerve damage.

Muscle reflexes in old age

In addition, with advancing age often a weakening of many reflexes occurs, which then occur on both sides and are not limited to one organ or one muscle.

An increase of the muscle reflexes is often seen in paralyzed muscles after a stroke - the extreme form is the so-called clonus, a rhythmic inexhaustible twitch of a muscle to a single stimulus. The clonus occurs in damage to the nerves coming from the cerebrum, which excite the muscles.

What is a conditional or conditioned reflex?

From the aforementioned innate reactions, a distinction is made between reflex-type body reactions that are learned or acquired. The most well-known in this context is certainly the Pavlovian dog experiment, which could be shown that dogs reacted after the coupling of food with bell sound on the sole bell sound with a production of saliva.

In the case of an acquired reflex, therefore, an innate reflex (salivation in the case of expected nutrition) is coupled with another stimulus (here bell tone) until a conditioning has been achieved, so that the first stimulus (food) can be dispensed with. This process, which we do not consciously perceive, influences our behavioral development, content learning and adaptation to our environment.

Therapeutically, the coupling in the field of psychotherapy is used for desensitization, in which a repeated pairing of an anxiety-inducing stimulus with a pleasant situation is established: the combination of positive emotion with the negative stimulus causes it gradually loses its effect.

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