Reflex action

A reflex action is a rapid and automatic response to a stimulus without any conscious thought of the brain.

Reflexes are essentially designed to protect the body. A reflex action, sometimes called a reflex arc, is a neural relay cycle for quick motor response to a harmful sensory stimulus. It requires a sensory (afferent) neurone and a motor (efferent) neuron.

Instead of the sensory impulses going all of the way to the brain where it can be analysed and the correct response selected, a reflex allows a shorter and quicker response. A typical example of a reflex action is a hand touching a hot object which involves sensory and motor nerves being coordinated through the spinal cord. The stimulus triggers a sensory impulse which travels along the dorsal root to the spinal cord.

Two synaptic transmissions occur at the same time. One synapse continues the impulse along a sensory neurone to the brain, the other immediately relays the impulse to an interneuron which transmits it to a motor neurone.

The motor neurone delivers the impulse to a muscle or gland, producing an immediate response and in this case withdrawing the hand from the hot object.

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