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Decorticate posturing is also called decorticate response, decorticate rigidity, flexor posturing, Patients with decorticate posturing present with the arms flexed, or bent inward on the chest, the hands are clenched into fists, and the legs extended and feet turned inward. A person displaying decorticate posturing in response to pain gets a score of three in the motor section of the Glasgow Coma Scale.
There are two parts to decorticate posturing.
- The first is the disinhibition of the red nucleus with facilitation of the rubrospinal tract. The rubrospinal tract facilitates motor neurons in the cervical spinal cord supplying the flexor muscles of the upper extremities. The rubrospinal tract and medullary reticulospinal tract biased flexion outweighs the medial and lateral vestibulospinal and pontine reticulospinal tract biased extension in the upper extremities.
- The second component of decorticate posturing is the disruption of the lateral corticospinal tract which facilitates motor neurons in the lower spinal cord supplying flexor muscles of the lower extremities. Since the corticospinal tract is interrupted, the pontine reticulospinal and the medial and lateral vestibulospinal biased extension tracts greatly overwhelm the medullary reticulospinal biased flexion tract.
The effects on these two tracts (corticospinal and rubrospinal) by lesions above the red nucleus is what leads to the characteristic flexion posturing of the upper extremities and extensor posturing of the lower extremities.
Decorticate posturing indicates that there may be damage to areas including the cerebral hemispheres, the internal capsule, and the thalamus. It may also indicate damage to the midbrain. While decorticate posturing is still an ominous sign of severe brain damage, decerebrate posturing is usually indicative of more severe damage as the rubrospinal tract and hence, the red nucleus, is also involved indicating lesion lower in the brainstem.
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