Dartos reflex: a sympathetically mediated scrotal reflex

Muscle Nerve. 2006 Mar;33(3):363-8. doi: 10.1002/mus.20476.


The dartos muscle is a sympathetically innervated dermal muscle layer within the scrotum, distinct from the somatically innervated cremasteric muscle. We electrophysiologically demonstrate the presence of a dartos reflex (DR), which can be used to evaluate the thoracolumbar sympathetic and genitofemoral nerve pathways. In 20 healthy men, we evoked the DR by cutaneous stimulation of the thigh and recorded the resultant scrotal skin contraction. We recorded hand, foot, and perineal sympathetic skin responses (SSRs) as controls. The DR was reliable and reproducible, as were the SSRs. The mean left DR latency was 4.8 s (SD, 2.7 s) and right DR latency was 5.4 s (SD, 3 .4), both of which were longer than the mean hand, foot, and perineal SSRs (P < 0.05). An intact reflex arc reflects the integrity of the afferent and efferent branches of the genitofemoral nerve (T12-L2). The DR test can also be used to assess scrotal autonomic innervation. Abnormalities of dartos innervation may impact testis thermoregulation and spermatogenesis.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Efferent Pathways / physiology
  • Electrodiagnosis
  • Foot / innervation
  • Foot / physiology
  • Functional Laterality / physiology
  • Hand / innervation
  • Hand / physiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Muscle Contraction / physiology
  • Muscle, Smooth / innervation
  • Muscle, Smooth / physiology
  • Reference Values
  • Reflex / physiology*
  • Scrotum / innervation*
  • Scrotum / physiology*
  • Skin / innervation
  • Sympathetic Nervous System / physiology*