What are primitive reflexes?
Moro reflex
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Spinal Galant Reflex
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Possible indicators of a retained Spinal Galant Reflex:

- Prolonged or difficult birth, or unusually fast delivery
- Hypersensitivity to touch: may lead to person being fussy with fabrics and clothing labels, or a dislike of being touched or cuddled
- Constant fidgeting
- Poor concentration and focus
- Poor short term memory
- Excessive tiredness
- Bedwetting or poor bladder control past the age of 5

What is the Spinal Galant Reflex?

The Spinal Galant Reflex, also known as the Trunk Incurvation Reflex, is a primitive reflex found in babies.  It emerges before birth, at about 20 weeks gestation.  If the baby’s back is lightly stroked in a downward direction to one side of the spine, reflexive movement the trunk occurs, causing the body to “curl” towards the touch, and the hips to rise slightly to the same side.

The purpose of the Spinal Galant Reflex is not completely clear, however, it is generally believed that it assists with the birth process.  It is thought that the reflex is initiated as the baby passes through the birth canal, and the resultant sideways curvature of the trunk to each side provides a “snake like” motion to help the baby progress towards the exit.  The Spinal Galant Reflex may also have a role to play post-birth, as the movement in the hips that it elicits may help to increase mobility and prepare the baby for crawling and walking.

What happens if it is retained?

As a primitive reflex the Spinal Galant Reflex should not remain present through childhood: it should be inhibited by the time the baby reaches 3-9 months of age. 

Retention of the Spinal Galant Reflex into childhood causes a range of issues, perhaps most notably an association with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

It is now known that there is a high incidence of retained Spinal Galant Reflex amongst children diagnosed with ADHD.  If this reflex is retained there is a muscular reaction to even very light stimulation of the skin of the back: the reflex may be constantly triggered by waistbands, chair backs, or clothing.  It is thought that the resultant fidgeting and restlessness may impact on concentration, making it very difficult to focus on a task, and process information.  Short term memory may also be affected.  A child with a retained Spinal Galant Reflex may therefore appear to suffer from ADHD, particularly if the primitive Moro reflex is also retained, constantly flooding the child’s blood stream with adrenaline.

Not all children with a retained Spinal Galant Reflex will display ADHD-like behaviour: some will be able to compensate for the physical effects of the reflex, and so may not be fidgety and restless, and may be able to maintain adequate concentration and focus.  This will, however, require supreme effort and thus the child is observed to tire very easily.  In addition, the child may be hypersensitive to touch, and may learn through experience that certain fabrics make them uncomfortable.  This can lead to a child who may be very fussy with clothes, wants clothing labels to be removed, or insists on wearing (or refuses to wear) a t-shirt or vest under their school uniform.  At its least severe, a retained Spinal Galant Reflex may simply result in a child who is exceptionally ticklish.

Hypersensitivity to touch may also manifest behaviourally in other areas; for example, a child with a retained Spinal Galant Reflex may dislike physical contact and seek to avoid it.  This is the child who does not like to be cuddled or held, and does not like getting too close to anybody.  They may also dislike having their hair or nails cut, because for them the sensation is unpleasant, and even painful.  Alternatively, the hyper-sensitive child may constantly seek tactile stimulation, and may appear overly needy of physical contact.

A retained Spinal Galant Reflex is also known to be associated with children who have poor bladder control or who wet the bed at night when older than 5 years of age.  Urination and the control of it is directed by a number of reflex processes, with additional involvement from higher centres of the brain.  It is possible that a retained Spinal Galant Reflex interferes with these processes.