A new study published in ‘Scientific Reports’ has shown that babies as young as four months old can sense how their bodies interact with the space around them. The research team at the University of Birmingham conducted a study where they presented babies with a ball on a screen moving towards or away from them while measuring their brain activity. When the ball was closest to them, the babies were given a “touch” on their hands.
The findings of this study indicate that in the first months of life, babies exhibit increased somatosensory brain activity when a touch is preceded by an object moving towards them. This means that babies can sense the space around them and understand how their bodies interact with it, which is referred to as peripersonal space.
Furthermore, the researchers found that when eight-month-old babies received a touch on their hand after the ball on the screen moved away from them, their brain activity showed signs of surprise. This suggests that as babies progress through their first year of life, they develop more sophisticated awareness of how their body exists in space around them.
The researchers hope to conduct more studies with younger and older participants to gain insight into the types of brain activity that babies are developing towards. They also aim to investigate if there are early signs of multisensory abilities in newborns. If this is true, it could mean that human consciousness may have its roots in our ability to feel ourselves in space.
Overall, this research highlights just how much we learn about ourselves and our environment during our first few months of life.