A recent study published in ‘Scientific Reports’ by a team of researchers at the University of Birmingham BabyLab has revealed that babies as young as four months old can sense how their bodies interact with the space around them. The study involved showing babies a ball on a screen moving towards or away from them while measuring their brain activity. When the ball was closest to them, they were presented with a “touch” (a small vibration) on their hands.
According to lead researcher Giulia Orioli, the findings suggest that babies show increased somatosensory brain activity when a touch is preceded by an object moving toward them, indicating that they can sense the space around them and understand how their bodies interact with that space, known as peripersonal space. In addition, the researchers found that eight-month-old babies showed signs of surprise when the touch on their hand was preceded by the ball on the screen moving away from them, suggesting that their brains are building a more sophisticated awareness of how their body exists in space as they progress through their first year of life.
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. If early signs of these multisensory abilities are found in newborns, it could have implications for understanding the origins of human consciousness rooted in the ability to feel the body in space.