Babies are born with `built-in body awareness ability`
Washington – A new study has provided some of the first evidence that newborn babies enter the world with the essential mechanisms for differentiating their own body from others.
“The identification of these mechanisms at birth in the current study sheds light on the typical trajectory of body awareness across development. Our findings may also be relevant to the investigation of early predictors of developmental disorders in infants, such as autism, where an impairment in the discrimination of self/other is believed to be present,” Maria Laura Filippetti of Birkbeck College, University of London, said.
Earlier studies in adults showed that the integration of information from different senses is key to body awareness. If an individual watches another person’s face being touched as his or her own face is touched in the same way, the perception of self actually shifts to partially incorporate that other face. In the new study, Filippetti and colleagues wanted to go back to the very beginning in investigating that phenomenon by studying newborn babies.
The researchers presented 20 healthy newborns with a video of another baby’s face being touched on the cheek with a soft paintbrush while the newborns’ corresponding cheeks were stroked either simultaneously or with a time delay.
Of course, the babies couldn’t explain what they experienced, but they did show greater interest in looking at the other baby’s face when it was stroked synchronously with their own. The babies were less interested when the face was presented to them upside down, making it less relatable to themselves.
The researchers interpret their observations as evidence that babies have the essential ingredients for body perception. When what babies see in relation to their own bodies matches what they feel, they notice just as we adults do.
The study was published in journal Current Biology.