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Frontal Release Signs

Frontal lobe.

Frontal lobe. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Frontal Release Signs are primitive reflexes that, when seen in adults with dementia, are indicative of disorders that affect the frontal lobes.

Primitive reflexes are hardwired into our brains, and we used them during development as building blocks to master survival functions and refine purposeful movement.  As our brains matured, the primitive reflexes were inhibited (dampened) by more complex motor pathways.  As the frontal lobe deteriorates, the primitive reflexes are “released”, and we see the re-emergence of patterns of early development.

We will discuss each one of these in more detail.

Palmar grasp
Palmomental reflex
Rooting reflex
Sucking reflex
Snout reflex
Glabellar reflex

The bottom line is if any of these reflexes re-emerge, there is suspected frontal lobe deterioration.  Researchers are trying to connect the severity of each abnormality to the stage of dementia.  Anecdotally, there is plenty of logic behind that theory.

But what does that mean for caregivers?  What does it mean for physical, occupational, and speech therapists approaching dementia treatment options as geriatric clinicians?  Should we add pediatric rehabilitative principles into our tool kit.

I think yes.

More later…


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  1. Mark Germine, MD

    It has been known to indicate frontal lobe damage since 1927. With regards to Alzheimer’s-type dementia, the palmer grasp me appear as long as ten years before a dementia work up is done. Physicians generally to not know how to do these frontal release reflexes, or, if they do, don’t bother to do them. Dementia can be detected very early by a simple palmer grasp, but this is not being done.

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