What Is a Motor Reflex?

The ankle jerk reflex test is an example of an automatic motor reflex test.
A reflex hammer is commonly used in a knee motor reflex test.
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  • Written By: Troy Holmes
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 14 July 2014
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Reflexes are an involuntary response or motion that occurs in humans based on conditions or stimulus response. A motor reflex is something that happens with the joints of the human body when specific pressure points are stimulated. The most common reflexes reviewed by doctors involve the ankle, knee, and elbow. They are typically tested with a special reflex tendon hammer.

The knee motor reflex test is one of the most common reflex tests. This is accomplished by having a doctor hit the pressure point below the kneecap with a reflex hammer. If the reflexes are working properly, the knee should involuntarily rise slightly with the tapping sensation of the pressure point.

Most toddlers go through a Nero exam when they are between two and three years of age. This exam is meant to test the motor reflexes of the arms, knees, and ankles. Additional testing is typically necessary if the reflex testing shows abnormalities. This could include special neurological tests designed to determine underling reflex issues.

A motor reflex is a involuntary response to stimulus. This automatic reflex is due to a special neural path that is connected to pressure points of the body. When these points are pressed, the muscles of the body will contract or extend, depending on the muscle being stimulated.


The bicep reflex test is an example of a muscle stretch reflex test. This motor reflex is exercised by hitting the lower area of the bicep tendon with a tendon hammer. If the reflex is working properly, the muscle should contract causing the arm to close.

There are many exercises designed to improve the motor reflex of children and adults. These exercises stimulate muscle and brain neurological pathways. A good exercise routine and sensory motor rehabilitation can greatly assist in the improvement of motor reflexes in humans.

The ankle jerk reflex test is another example of an automatic motor reflex test. This test is completed by tapping the back of the ankle tendon above the foot. If the reflex is working properly, the foot should move in an open jerking motion.

Most motor reflexes tend to weaken with age. This is often seen in the ankle jerk test with adults older than 60. It is not known what causes the decrease in reflexes with age, but exercise and a healthy lifestyle may prolong these automatic responses.


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