New research published in ‘Scientific Reports’ has revealed that babies as young as four months old can sense how their bodies interact with the space around them. The University of Birmingham BabyLab team conducted a study in which infants were shown a ball on a screen moving towards or away from them while their brain activity was measured. When the ball was closest to them, the babies received a “touch” (a small vibration) on their hands.
According to Giulia Orioli, a psychology researcher at the University of Birmingham, this study shows that babies in the first months of life display 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, referred to as peripersonal space.
Furthermore, the researchers found that eight-month-old babies displayed signs of surprise when the touch on their hand was preceded by the ball on the screen moving away from them. This suggests that as infants progress through their first year of life, they develop more sophisticated awareness of how their body exists in space.
The researchers hope to conduct further studies with younger and older participants to explore different types of brain activity that babies are developing toward. They also aim to investigate if there are early signs of these multisensory abilities in newborn babies. If so, it could be possible that human consciousness originates from our ability to feel our body in space.