Encyclopedia of Clinical Neuropsychology

2018 Edition
| Editors: Jeffrey S. Kreutzer, John DeLuca, Bruce Caplan

Babinski Reflex

  • Edison Wong
  • Richard KunzEmail author
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-57111-9_6


Long tract sign; Plantar reflex; Upper motor neuron sign


The Babinski reflex is a component of the neurological exam, used to assess the adequacy of the pyramidal tract (upper motor neuron). This reflex is elicited by making contact along the lateral side of the plantar foot with a blunt implement and not causing pain, discomfort, or injury to the skin; the implement is run from the heel along a curve to the metatarsal pads. There are three responses possible:
  • Extensor (positive or pathological): hallux (great toe) extension and the other toes abduct (fanning)

  • Flexor (negative or normal): all toes flex and the foot everts

  • Indifferent: no response

Current Knowledge

An extensor (positive) response signifies pathology in the upper motor neuron pathways, either in the spinal cord and/or brain, such as in multiple sclerosis, stroke, traumatic brain injury, or spinal cord injury. It may be the sole sign of upper motor neuron damage and is the most popular reflex for...

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References and Readings

  1. Babinski, J. (1896). Sur le reflexe cutane plantaire dans certaines affections organiques du systeme nerveux central. Comptes Rendus des Seances de la Societe de Biologie et de Ses Filiales, 48, 207–208.Google Scholar
  2. Larner, A. J. (2016). A dictionary of neurological signs (4th ed.). Basel: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Pearson, K., & Gordon, J. (2000). Spinal reflexes. In E. R. Kandel, J. H. Schwartz, & T. M. Jessell (Eds.), Principles of neural science (4th ed., pp. 713–736). New York: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Pain and Medical RehabilitationFitchburgUSA
  2. 2.Department of Physical Medicine and RehabilitationVirginia Commonwealth UniversityRichmondUSA