Researchers at the University of Birmingham BabyLab have discovered that babies as young as four months old can understand how their bodies interact with the space around them. This new information was published in ‘Scientific Reports’ and sheds light on the development of self-awareness. The study involved showing babies a ball on a screen that was moving towards or away from them, while also providing a small vibration on their hands to measure brain activity.
The findings indicate that even in the first months of life, babies are able to sense the space around them and understand how their bodies interact with that space, a concept known as peripersonal space. This means that they are wired to make connections between what they see and what they feel, showing increased somatosensory brain activity when touched after an object moves towards them.
Additionally, the study found that eight-month-old babies showed signs of surprise when touched after the ball on the screen moved away from them, indicating a more sophisticated awareness of their bodies in relation to the surrounding space as they progress through their first year of life.
The researchers hope to further explore these findings by studying younger and older participants. They also aim to investigate whether there are early signs of these multisensory abilities in newborn babies. If so, this could potentially provide insight into the origins of human consciousness.