Author: Jana Vasković•Reviewer: Francesca Salvador MScLast reviewed: October 05, 2021Reading time: 17 minutes


A major part of the spinal cord function is regulated by the brain. Plenty of functions that the spinal cord are additionally executed independently from the brain, such as a spinal reflex.

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The definition of a spinal reflex and their components, functions, pathways, and physiology will certainly be explained in this article and is a must-know for every student the is passionate around neurosciences. The clinical importance of spinal reflexes is likewise essential because the examination of them is an inevitable component of daily clinical practice.

This write-up will discuss the anatomy and duty of the spinal reflex.

Key facts about spinal reflexes
Spinal reflexReceptor --> sensory fiber --> (interneuron) --> alpha motor neuron --> muscle
Monosynaptic reflexesBiceps brachii, triceps brachii, brachioradialis, quadriceps femoris, triceps surae reflexes
Polysynaptic reflexesUpper abdominal, reduced abdominal, cremasteric, plantar, anal reflexes

Monosynaptic reflexPolysynaptic reflexes
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The spinal cord is phylogenetically enlarge than most structures of the brain, which way that reflexes room in fee of carrying out functions that the organism demands the most. Basically, the is much more important to remove your hand indigenous a heat source in order to prevent getting charred than to have the ability to speak. Plenty of of the protective functions essential for survival are embedded within the spinal reflexes.

By definition, a reflex is an involuntary, stereotypical an answer of the effector organization from the stimulation the receptors. This reflexes room executed through the successive activation that a certain variety of neurons that space mutually connected. The critical neuron normally innervates the effector tissue, i beg your pardon is normally a muscle. These neurons and the effector tissue form relations the are dubbed the reflex arc, i m sorry is the basic unit of a reflex. Based on how many neurons participate in one arc, the reflexes deserve to be monosynaptic or polysynaptic.

To understand the framework of the spinal cord and spinal nerves, take a look at below:

Neurons: structure and types explore study unit
structure of the spinal cord discover study unit

Monosynaptic reflex


The monosynaptic reflexes consist of of two neurons. The first is located within the spinal ganglion. This is the sensory neuron (afferent) who peripheral process detects the stimuli indigenous the muscle. Then, the main process that the an initial neuron conducts this signal come the ventral horn of the spinal cord, wherein the 2nd neuron is situated. The neuron II is a engine neuron (efferent) that sends the proper signal via its axon back to the very same muscle in i beg your pardon the sensory neuron had detected the signal. This process occurs after the sensory details is received from neuron I. This means that the whole arc has only one neuronal synapse the is directly in between neuron I and neuron II (without the authorized of interneurons). To make it simple, let’s recap this with a details example. The perfect example of the monosynaptic reflex is the knee-jerk or the patellar reflex. In this reflex, neuron I has actually its peripheral finishing within the tendons of the quadriceps muscle. When the tendon is excessively or all of sudden stretched, neuron i detects that and also informs neuron II that action is necessary to avoid any type of injury come the tendon. Then, neuron II that the patellar reflex, i m sorry is in the lumbar segment of the spinal cord, sends out the efferent signal v its axon come the quadriceps muscle come contract.

Interactive anatomy is the many effective method to learn. Discover out what it is and also how you can use it to learn about the spinal reflex.

So, the adequate stimulus is the stretching of the muscle, and also the adequate an answer is that contraction. Considering this pattern, we have the right to say that many monosynaptic reflexes space stretching reflexes. Once we recognize this, it’s basic to recognize that testing these reflexes actually tests the state of neuron II in the spinal cord and can administer clinically important information about the case in the spinal cord.

Most crucial examined monosynaptic reflexes
Biceps brachiiC5, C6
Triceps brachiiC6, C7, C8
BrachioradialisC5, C6, C7
Quadriceps femorisL2, L3, L4
Triceps surae (Achilles tendon)S1, S2

For the finish understanding of stretching reflexes, let’s think about all materials of the reflex arc from a physiological aspect. To recap, these materials are:

ReceptorsAfferent nerve fibersSpinal motor neuron

Receptors the provoke the reflex

Ruffini corpuscle (histological slide)

The physiology offers an answer as to why these reflexes happen. Well, proprioceptors are located in the muscles, tendons, and also ligaments. These certain receptors recognize information around the length of the muscle, the tension of the ligaments, the level of the tendon stretching, etc. Specifically, within the skeletal muscles, the receptors are well-known as muscle spindles, within the joints room the Ruffini corpuscles and free nerve ends, vice versa, in the ligaments and tendons space the Golgi tendon organs.

All receptors mentioned above inform the main nervous system about the place of the limbs, the strength and the speed of the muscle contraction, and feedback information vital for the control of movements. The impression the the somatosensory cortex it s okay after receiving every one of this info is actually the awareness of the body’s position in space, which is referred to as kinesthesia

Muscle spindle

This is a special form of sensory receptor the is located in the muscle. This receptors space mechanoreceptors and finding a readjust in muscle length. To make the possible, castle are inserted parallel to the muscle fibers, so once the fibers change in length, the spindle does together well. Muscle spindles consists functionally different main and peripheral parts. The main part is sensory where it is perceptible to stretching. ~ above the various other hand, the peripheral component is contractile and is innervated by the gamma-motor neuron. The spindles room constantly exposed to the muscle’s environment and with the afferent projections of the sensory neurons i m sorry innervate the spindles, they interact with the alpha-motor neurons that the spinal cord that innervate the muscle fibers. Simply speaking, the muscle fiber is a teenager and the muscle spindle is a friend the constantly witnesses what the fiber is doing and is informing the parent. The parent in this analogy is the alpha motor neuron whereby it is informed about what the muscle fiber experience in order for the alpha engine neuron come take activity if needed. 

Gamma engine neuron

Motor neuron

As previously stated, the peripheral sections of the muscle spindles room innervated v the efferent gamma engine neurons. Once these neurons activate, the muscle spindles contract. The relationship in between the gamma engine neuron and also the muscle spindle is analogous to the relationship between the alpha engine neuron and the bones muscle fiber.

So, exactly how do all of these structures duty grossly? Well, as soon as the muscle is stretched, the muscle spindles big too. Because it is innervated through the afferent neuron (neuron ns of the reflex arc), that details goes to the ventral horn the the spinal cord to notify the suitable alpha motor neuron. Then, the alpha engine neuron sends out the signal that reasons the extended muscle come contract.

Polysynaptic reflexes

Contrary to monosynaptic reflexes, polysynaptic reflexes are achieved with the participation of one or more interneurons, meaning that the communication between the afferent and efferent neurons is indirect.

The human body of the sensory neuron ns is additionally situated within the spinal ganglion; receiving stimuli indigenous muscles and also other organization (I.e. The skin). The afferent neuron sends out signals via its central process to interneurons located in the gray issue of the spinal cord. These interneurons then direct these signal to the sufficient motor neurons of their certain spinal cord segments, too as nearby and remote motor neurons. Due to the fact that of this, one economic stimulation transmitted come the interneurons can cause multiple alpha motor neurons to gain excited or inhibited, and also therefore, have the right to cause more than one muscle to contract or relax. Generally, the different muscle teams susceptible come this way of regulation space the extensors or flexors. Typically, this reflexes cause some muscle teams to contract, if others concurrently relax. Native a physiological point of view, among the most important polysynaptic reflexes is the inverse stretching reflex.

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As formerly mentioned, Golgi tendon organs are amongst deep receptors the take component in spinal reflex arcs.