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Since Babinski's first description of the big toe phenomenon as a sign of disturbed function of the pyramidal tracts, many theories as to its mechanism have been propounded. In the available literature we were unable to find any of these theories that would be satisfactory—at least to us. In reading Babinski's original papers, one is struck by his failure to offer any explanation for the mechanism of his phenomenon.
In routine neurologic examinations of cases of disease of the central nervous system, great variations are frequently noted in the response of the big toe to plantar stimulation. Among these are: Dorsiflexion of the big toe without stimulation, i. e., spontaneously, which is observed in diseases included in the so-called amyostatic symptom-complex (extrapyramidal system), the so-called chronic Babinski sign; spontaneous, constant, vermicular, slow, rhythmic movement of the big toe in dorsiflexion simulating an athetoid movement—this type of reaction may be designated
ABRAHAM M. RABINER, MOSES KESCHNER. THEORY OF THE MECHANISM FOR THE BABINSKI TOE PHENOMENON. Arch NeurPsych. 1926;16(3):313–318. doi:10.1001/archneurpsyc.1926.02200270052004