PRIMITIVE

REFLEXES

Moro (startle) Reflex

Stimulus

Any sudden change in head position or any of the five senses: light, sound, touch, smell, or taste

Response

The baby’s arms first stretch open and then grasp forward. Their sympathetic nervous system is also activated and it triggers a physiological fight-or-flight response.

Function

  • Helps baby survive during the first few months after birth

  • Alerts caregiver to possible danger

  • Helps stimulate breathing after birth

  • Early fight-or-flight response

   

 

Symptoms if retained

  • Over-reactive

  • Hypersensitive

  • Hyposentitive

  • Hyperactive

  • Poor balance and coordination

  • Visual-perception problems

  • Poor impulse control

Children with a retained Moro are consistently put in a state of heightened arousal. This can have a huge impact on their ability to function. Children learn to cope with this in different ways. Some become very anxious, fearful of things that might trigger this reflex, while other become over-excitable, using the reflex like an adrenaline rush.

  • Emotional immaturity

  • Motion sickness

  • Immune issues

  • Anxiety

  • Low self-esteem

  • Stimulus bound  

Tonic Labyrinthine Reflex (TLR)

Stimulus

Flexion or extension of the head

Response

The arms and legs flex when the head flexes and extend when the head extends

Function

  • Helps baby get into a good position for birth

  • Helps baby adapt to a world with gravity

  • Helps develop muscle tone

The TLR is triggered by a specific change head position (detected by the vestibular system). The vestibular system also has connections to the child’s visual, auditory, and motor control systems. Children with a retained TLR have an immature vestibular system and often have immaturity in these other systems as well. Their brain receives mismatched information from each of these sensory systems.

Symptoms if retained

  • Poor balance and coordination

  • Visual perception problems

  • Motion sickness

  • Under or over developed muscle tone

  • Poor posture

  • Toe walking

Spinal Galant Reflex

Stimulus

Any tactile stimulation to the skin on either side of the spine in the lumbar region

Response

Rotation of the hip 45° on that side

Function

  • Encourages movement in the womb

  • Helps during the birth process

  • Promotes hip flexibility

Children with a retained Spinal Galant often have trouble staying still, particularly while seated. They may be very uncomfortable sitting in chairs that touch the lumbar region of their back or wearing tight pants or pants with tags.

Symptoms if retained

  • Difficulty sitting still

  • Hypersensitivity in the lumbar region (tags, waist bands, ect..)

  • Some connection to bedwetting  

Asymmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex (ATNR)

Stimulus

Rotation of the head to either side

Response

The arm and leg on the “face” side extend and the arm and leg on the “skull” side flex

Function

  • Encourages movement in the womb

  • Helps facilitate the birth process

  • Develops homolateral movement

  • Helps keep airway clear

  • Early hand-eye training

Children with a retained ATNR often have to adjust their posture in order to accomplish everyday tasks. This becomes particularly evident during school when they are using cognitive effort and when they are often required to sit at a desk. Children with a retained ATNR often have “bad” posture and may even be labeled as “lazy” because of it.

Symptoms if retained

  • Poor balance and coordination

  • Avoid crossing the midline

  • Poor hand-eye coordination

  • Difficulty writing

  • Difficulty reading

  • Difficulty tracking visual information

Symmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex (STNR)

Stimulus

Extension or flexion of the head 

Response

When the head extends, the arms extend and the lower body flexes. When the head flexes, the arms flex and the legs extend.

Function

  • Helps the infant defy gravity (move from the floor to standing)

  • Helps with spine alignment

  • Helps with visual accommodation

Similar to the ATNR, Children with a retained STNR often have to adjust their posture during everyday activities like school. Their postural and visual systems work against rather than with them. Many children try to accommodate this by adjusting their position e.g. they may tuck their legs under them when they sit in a chair.

Symptoms if retained

  • Prevent proper crawling

  • Poor posture

  • Poor body control

  • Difficulty with attention and concentration

  • Poor hand-eye coordination

  • Difficulty with vertical tracking