Does she recognize you? Does he know you? Does she know herself?
Turns out, the answer may be yes from almost the moment of birth.
As NPR reports, a study found babies were aware of their bodies and showed ownership of them within two days of birth. This is the first study to discover how important this is to newborns at birth.
The study’s lead author, a doctoral candidate specializing in cognitive development at Birkbeck College, University of London, says that’s key to realizing your own existence.
“Body awareness refers to the feeling of being alive. Body ownership refers to the feeling of having a body, the sense that this body belongs to me.”
Filippetti and her colleagues tested 40 infants’ ability to recognize themselves and, as NPR reports, this is the test they used:
[The] test tricks the mind into thinking a fake rubber hand actually belongs to a person’s body. Researchers lightly stroke a person’s real hand with a paintbrush while it’s hidden from his or her view. Simultaneously, the researchers stroke a rubber hand that’s in plain sight. Stroking the two at the same time and in the same places means the person feels the paintbrush while seeing the action elsewhere. Normally, a person’s brain associates the feeling of one’s hand with the sight of the hand. But the brain can be confused by a trick like this and start to think the rubber hand is the one it should pay attention to.
They did a similar test on the infants using a paint brush but this time researchers stroked the babies’ cheeks while they watched it being done to another baby on video. The researchers determine the babies’ responses by measuring how long they watch the baby in the video.
“A longer looking time for a stimulus compared to another one is a measure of discrimination and preference for that stimulus,” Filippetti says. The babies watched the baby on the video for a longer period of time when the paintbrush strokes happened at the same time as opposed to at different times or not at all. Reasearchers say this response to simultaneous stimulation shows a sense of body awareness and ownership.
Overall, the tests don’t prove he infants identified themselves but Filippetti says the work suggests that “the same factors known to be involved in body awareness in adults are present at birth.”
Image: M. Bielanko
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