A recent study published in ‘Scientific Reports’ has shown that babies as young as four months old have the ability to sense how their bodies interact with space around them. Researchers at the University of Birmingham’s BabyLab conducted the study, in which 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 on the screen, the babies were given a “touch” (a small vibration) on their hands. The findings of the study indicate that babies show increased somatosensory brain activity when a touch is preceded by an object moving toward them, indicating that they can sense their peripersonal space – the area around their body where they can interact with objects.
In eight-month-old babies, when the touch on their hand was preceded by the ball on the screen moving away from them, their brain activity showed signs of surprise. This suggests that as babies progress through their first year of life, they develop a more sophisticated awareness of how their body exists in space around them.
The researchers hope to conduct further studies with younger and older participants to shed light on the types of brain activity that babies are developing towards. They also hope to see if there are early signs of these multisensory abilities in newborn babies. If this is indeed true, it could be that human consciousness has its roots in our ability to feel ourselves in space.