A study conducted by a team of researchers at the University of Birmingham has shown that babies as young as four months old can understand 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, the babies were given a “touch” (a small vibration) on their hands.
The findings of the study suggest that in the first months of life, babies show 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 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, their brain activity showed signs of surprise. This suggests 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 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 the origins of human consciousness are rooted in our ability to feel our bodies in space.