A study conducted by researchers at the University of Birmingham BabyLab 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 a ball on a screen moving towards or away from the babies while their brain activity was measured. When the ball was closest to them, they were presented with a “touch” on their hands.
According to Giulia Orioli, a psychology researcher at the University of Birmingham, this means that babies are already developing an awareness of peripersonal space, which refers to the area around their body where they can sense objects and interactions. The findings suggest that babies can sense the space around them and understand how their bodies interact with that space even before they have any conscious awareness of it.
Furthermore, the researchers 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 space.
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 true, it could be that the origins of human consciousness are rooted in our ability to feel ourselves in space.