Neural mechanism and clinical significance of the plantar grasp reflex in infants

Pediatr Neurol. 2010 Aug;43(2):81-6. doi: 10.1016/j.pediatrneurol.2010.04.002.


The plantar grasp reflex can be elicited in all normal infants from 25 weeks of postconceptional age until the end of 6 months of corrected age according to the expected birth date. This reflex in human infants can be regarded as a rudiment of responses that were once essential for ape infants in arboreal life. The spinal center for this reflex is probably located at the L(5)-S(2) levels, which, however, are controlled by higher brain structures. Nonprimary motor areas may exert regulatory control of the spinal reflex mechanism through interneurons. In infants, this reflex can be elicited as the result of insufficient control of the spinal mechanism by the immature brain. In adults, lesions in nonprimary motor areas may cause a release of inhibitory control by spinal interneurons, leading to a reappearance of the reflex. The plantar grasp reflex in infants is of high clinical significance. A negative or diminished reflex during early infancy is often a sensitive indicator of spasticity. Infants with athetoid type cerebral palsy exhibit an extremely strong retention of the reflex, and infants with mental retardation also exhibit a tendency toward prolonged retention of the reflex.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Afferent Pathways / physiology
  • Animals
  • Child Development / physiology*
  • Hand Strength / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Intellectual Disability / physiopathology
  • Motor Cortex / physiology*
  • Muscle Spasticity / physiopathology
  • Reflex, Abnormal