Decerebrate rigidity

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In neurological physical examination, decerebrate rigidity is a "condition characterized by abnormal posturing of the limbs that is associated with injury to the brainstem. This may occur as a clinical manifestation or induced experimentally in animals. The extensor reflexes are exaggerated leading to rigid extension of the limbs accompanied by hyperreflexia and opisthotonus. This condition is usually caused by lesions which occur in the region of the brainstem that lies between the red nuclei and the vestibular nuclei."[1][2]

Section through the midbrain showing the red nucleus (#7).

Decerebrate rigidity reduced the motor score of the Glasgow Coma Scale to 2 points.

Decorticate rigidity is similar except the upper extremities are flexed, the lesion is above the red nucleus, and the motor score of the Glasgow Coma Scale is reduced to 3 points.


  1. Anonymous (2021), Decerebrate rigidity (English). Medical Subject Headings. U.S. National Library of Medicine.
  2. Ropper, Allan H.; Adams, Raymond Delacy; Victor, Maurice (1997). Principles of Neurology (in English), 6th. New York: McGraw-Hill, Health Professions Division, 358. ISBN 0-07-067439-6.