Many of us probably recall our childhood visits to the pediatrician. And some of us might even remember being amused and surprised when the doctor used a little hammer to tap just below our knee and our lower leg jumped in response ALL BY ITSELF!
Later in life, we may have learned that physicians use this simple test to judge the health of our nervous system. Even more specifically, we may have learned that they use it to test one of our many reflexes-the patellar or knee-jerk reflex.
But what exactly are reflexes? In medical terms, a reflex is described as a “sensorimotor arc”. This arc occurs when a sensory receptor neuron (such as a pain receptor in the skin) receives a stimulus and sends a signal to a motor neuron in the central nervous system (spinal cord). The motor neuron then sends a response to the proper effector…
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