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J Assoc Physicians India. 2003 Jan;51:53-7.

The Babinski sign--a critical review.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, Holy Cross Hospital, Adoor, Pathanamthitta, Kerala.


In 1896, Josph Babinski, a French neurologist, first described the best known neurologic eponym--"the Babinski sign". This sign is characterised by dorsiflexion of the big toe, by recruitment of the extensor hallucis longus muscle, on stimulating the sole of the foot. He himself emphasised from the outset the intimate relationship between this sign and the shortening movement in other leg muscles, which forms the flexion synergy of the lower limb. The Babinski sign is not a new reflex, rather it is released as a result of breakdown of the harmonious integration of the flexion and extension component of the normal defence reflex mechanism, due to pyramidal tract dysfunction. A pathological Babinski sign should be clearly distinguished from upgoing toes that may not always be a part of the flexion synergy. This article reviews the Babinski sign in detail, focusing on the historical perspectives, role of pyramidal tract dysfunction, art of elicitation and interpretation. The significance of assessing this phenomenon in the entire leg and the clinical clues that will help to dispel the myths regarding the Babinski sign has been emphasized.

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