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Moro Reflex

The infant Moro reflex acts as a baby’s "fight or flight" reaction. It is present at birth and helps to stimulate that first big breath of life, which is often followed by crying. It is typically inhibited at approximately 4 months of post-natal life and is replaced by the adult “startle” reflex. The mature startle reflex is characterized by a startle response to a loud sound or sudden sensory input from the environment. The individual will then scan the area to locate the source of danger, if no danger is present, the child will ignore the stimulus and return to what they were doing.  

When the Moro reflex is not integrated at 4 months, it continues to trigger in response to a stimulus in the environment, setting off an instantaneous "fight or flight" body reaction. This happens regardless if the environment is safe. This happens before the conscious part of the brain has time to assess the safety of the situation. Children who have an ongoing Moro reflex tend to be over-reactive to what seem to be minor triggers in their environments. They often have difficulty filtering unwanted sensory input in their surroundings resulting in “sensory overload”. This can have a negative impact on their social interactions, attention and behaviour. 

Beautiful newborn baby lying in his bed.jpg

Signs and Symptoms of a Retained Moro Reflex:

  • Over-reactive (fight/flight)

  • Hypersensitive

  • Vestibular related challenges (poor balance, motion sickness, visual overload, visual perceptual problems)

  • Poor impulse control

  • Angst/outbursts

  • Poor adaptability (dislike for change) 

  • Need to control events

  • Emotionally immature

  • Stimulus bound (the inability to ignore irrelevant visual/environmental stimuli).

Possible secondary psychological symptoms:  

  • Free floating anxiety

  • Tendency to over-react (mood swings, tense muscle tone “body armoring”, difficulty accepting criticism) 

  • Difficulty making decisions

  • Weak ego, low self-esteem, insecurity, dependency, need to control or manipulate events. 


Long term effects of a retained Moro:

  • Vestibular related concerns

  • Physical timidity 

  • Oculomotor and visual perceptual problems, poor pupillary response, stimulus bound

  • Auditory overload/confusion

  • Tendency to allergies or weakened immune system. 

  • Poor adaptability 

  • Poorly developed CO2 response

  • Reactive hypoglycemia

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