Your Doctor's Knee-Jerk Reflex: How Not to Get Kicked

August 20, 2014 7:36 PM

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We are, I trust, all but universally familiar with the knee jerk, or patellar, reflex. A doctor taps the patellar tendon with a rubber mallet, and our leg kicks forward in response.

The reaction is famously unthinking. In fact, it is literally so. What makes a reflex a reflex is that the brain is substantially uninvolved. The stretch of a tendon by the mallet is transmitted to the spinal cord, and the compensatory command to move against the stretch is sent right back out from ...

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