Primitive reflexes are automatic, involuntary movements essential to a baby’s survival in the first few weeks of life. These reflexes are quickly inhibited as higher centers of the brain develop, and voluntary responses become dominant. Primitive reflexes persisting beyond 6-12 months of life are considered abnormal.

Normal neural development shows a progressive inhibition of the primitive reflexes and progressive development of new skills such as gross motor skills, fine motor skills, crawling, walking, balance, coordination, and speech. Children have several persistent primitive reflexes present with neuro-developmental disorders. 

The severity of the neuro-developmental delay depends on the strength of the persistent primitive reflexes, the number of persistent primitive reflexes, and other factors. To gain some clarity on this subject, check out Carolina Brain Center’s guide below.

Common Types of Primitive Reflexes in Babies

Below you will find familiar signs and symptoms associated with a persistent primitive reflex. The list is not exhaustive or complete but is intended to offer insight into the importance of primitive reflex testing and remediation.

Moro Reflex

The Moro Reflex emerges at nine weeks in utero and is the earliest form of “fight or flight” (stress reaction), which is fully present at birth and is usually inhibited between 2-4 months of life.

Signs that the Moro Reflex has been retained to some degree include:

  • Difficulty with ball games
  • Stimulus bound
  • Hypersensitive
  • Over reactive

Spinal Galant Reflex

The Spinal Galant emerges at 20 weeks in utero, is actively present at birth, and is inhibited by 3-9 months. It may affect posture, gait, and other locomotion if fully retained or only retained on one side. It is responsible for fidgeting, bedwetting, poor concentration, short-term memory, and hip rotation to one side when walking. When retained, it can interfere with the development of amphibian and segmental rolling reflexes.

Signs that the Spinal Galant Reflex has been retained to some degree include:

  • Continued bedwetting above the age of five years
  • Inability to sit still or remain silent
  • Poor concentration

A baby crawling on a rug

Asymmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex

Asymmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex (ATNR) emerges at 18 weeks in utero to stimulate the balance mechanism and to increase neural connections. It assists in and is reinforced by the birth process. ATNR is fully present at birth and develops eye-hand coordination, trains one side of the body at a time, and extends the ability to focus from 17 cm to arm’s length. 

It is inhabited by about six months of life (so that focus on distant objects can develop). It ensures free air passage when the baby is in the prone position and increases extensor muscle tone.

Signs that the Asymmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex has been retained to some degree include:

  • Eye tracking problems; difficulty crossing the midline
  • Ambilaterality or cross laterality
  • Poor handwriting

Tonic Labyrinthine Reflex

The Tonic Labyrinthine Reflex (TLR) Forwards emerges in utero, is fully present at birth, is inhibited by four months, and is closely linked to the Moro as both are vestibular in origin and activated by movement of the head. Retaining can lead to spatial problems, motion sickness, poor posture & muscle tone, visual perceptual difficulties, poor sequencing skills, and a poor sense of time. 

The Tonic Labyrinthine Reflex (TLR) Backwards emerges at birth and is inhibited gradually from 6 weeks to 3 years. It is involved in the simultaneous development of postural reflexes, the symmetrical tonic neck reflex, and the Landau reflex, which can result in poor balance and coordination as well as organizational skills and stiff, jerky movements if retained.

Signs that the Tonic Labyrinthine Reflex has been retained to some degree include:

  • Oculomotor dysfunction, tracking, convergence, reestablishment of binocular vision
  • Poor balance, rigid or floppy muscles
  • Poor sense of time and rhythm
  • Visual perceptual difficulties
  • Possible auditory problems
  • Organizational problems

Symmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex

The Symmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex (Flexion & Extension) emerges at about 6-9 months of life and is inhibited at about 9-11 months. If retained, it affects posture, hand-eye coordination, and swimming skills. It also results in the tendency to slump at a desk, an ape-like walk, “clumsy child” syndrome, difficulties with binocular vision, slowness at copying tasks, and messy eating habits.

Signs that the Symmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex has been retained to some degree include:

  • Problems with refocusing from far to near distance
  • Posture lies on the desk when writing
  • Poor eye-hand coordination
  • Obvious clumsiness

Learn More About the Types of Primitive Reflexes at Carolina Brain Center

Carolina Brain Center can help you understand your child’s brain health and primitive reflexes better. These reflexes can be challenging to understand, but it can be accomplished if given proper advice from a trusted medical source. Reach out to Carolina Brain Center to learn more about our objectives and how we can help.

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