New research published in ‘Scientific Reports’ suggests that babies as young as four months old can understand how their bodies interact with the space around them. A study conducted by the University of Birmingham BabyLab team showed that when a ball was shown on a screen moving towards or away from them while their brain activity was measured, babies displayed increased somatosensory brain activity when a touch was preceded by an object moving towards them.
This means that babies can sense the space around them and understand how their bodies interact with that space, referred to as peripersonal space. The researchers also found that in eight-month-old babies, when the touch on their hand was preceded by the ball on the screen moving away from them, the babies’ brain activity showed signs that they were surprised.
These findings suggest that as babies progress through their first year of life, their brains build a more sophisticated awareness of how their body exists in the 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 toward. They also hope to see if there are early signs of these multisensory abilities in newborn babies. If this is the case, it could be that the origins of human consciousness are rooted in the ability to feel the body in space.