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October 1989

The Extensor Toe Reflex

Author Affiliations

Department of Neurology New York University School of Medicine First Avenue and 27th Street New York, NY 10016

Arch Neurol. 1989;46(10):1047. doi:10.1001/archneur.1989.00520460021005

To the Editor.  —The article by Massey and Sanders1 concerning the accurate observations of great painters that the extensor toe reflex normally exists in infants prior to the time they are able to walk is most interesting. It reen-forces the admonitions of Walshe, quoted in the same issue of the Archives by Landau,2 that careful observations are still basic and cannot be replaced by laboratory procedures. But observation alone is not adequate. It must be coupled with the attempt to understand the physiological cause of the observed phenomenon, "the sequence of observation and inference."To illustrate this I can add another item to the lore of the Babinski reflex. In a volume on neurology by Amariah Brigham published in 1840,3 he writes Sometimes after entire loss of sensation and voluntary motion from disease or injury of the spinal cord, the limbs thus paralysed, contract on irritating the