The Wikipedia article on primitive reflexes, or newborn reflexes, states that they originate in the CNS. Here's the list of reflexes from the article:

  • Moro
  • Walking/stepping
  • Rooting
  • Sucking
  • Tonic neck
  • Palmar grasp
  • Plantar
  • Galant
  • Swimming
  • Babkin

Precisely where in the CNS do they originate?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ This is not one question. $\endgroup$ Jul 14 '12 at 18:05
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Asking "where" may not be as meaningful as you think, as many of these are not "reflexes" in the traditional sense (compared to something like the patellar tendon reflex). Something like the swimming reflex might be composed of several spinal pattern generator circuits, which are difficult to isolate in humans. $\endgroup$ Jul 14 '12 at 20:07
  • $\begingroup$ The plantar is probably a good angle from which to start investigating these phenomena, as there's plenty of information about its origins and its manifestation in stroke victims or other victims of upper motorneuronal damage. $\endgroup$ Jul 14 '12 at 20:08
  • $\begingroup$ I believe I've found a single answer for all the primitive reflexes, so I revised the question to reflect that a single answer is expected. I'd like to reopen the question and answer it. $\endgroup$
    – John Pick
    Jul 16 '13 at 6:41

It seems that there is not much research concerning the anatomical localization of primitive reflexes. For instance, Schott & Rossor (2003) state in the conclusion of their review

The complexity of many of these responses makes it perhaps unsurprising that detailed anatomical localisation, despite the availability of structural and functional imaging, has in general not been possible.

However, at least for the grasp reflex, they discuss an involvement of frontal areas.

Schott, JM Rossor M (2003). The grasp and other primitive reflexes. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 74(5): 558–560. [DOI] [PDF]

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ AFAIK, the involvement of the frontal areas is that they inhibit primitive reflexes. $\endgroup$
    – John Pick
    Jul 18 '12 at 18:08
  • $\begingroup$ I only recited what they wrote. But actually I think the same like you. $\endgroup$
    – H.Muster
    Jul 18 '12 at 18:17

Primitive reflexes originate in the brainstem.


  • Shewmon, D.A. (1988) Anencephaly: selected medical aspects. Hastings Cent. Rep. 18(5):11-19.
  • Stumpf, D.A., Cranford, R.E., Elias, S., Fost, N.C., McQuillen, M.P., Myer, E.C., Poland, R., Queenan, J.T. (1990) The Infant with Anencephaly. NEJM. 322:669-674.

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