Research explores development of babies' brains

Between the ages of six and eight months, babies' brains go through a crucial stage of development that allows them to begin to make sense of objects.

By | November 29, 2000

Research published in 24 November Science has shown that babies' brains seem to go through a crucial stage of development between the ages of six and eight months. Csibra et al used a sophisticated system of sensors in an attempt to discover at what point babies begin to make sense of objects and shapes in the world around them.

A total of 11 six-month-old and 11 eight-month-old babies were assessed for the study. The researchers placed a 'geodesic sensor net' made up of 64 sensors onto the babies' scalps, and then showed them a group of four 'Pacman' shapes collectively known as a Kanizsa Square. When placed with the four 'mouths' facing inwards, the shapes create the optical illusion of a square. Previous research has shown that adult brains produce a characteristic signal of gamma oscillations when shown a Kanizsa Square. The eight-month-old babies also produced such a signal, suggesting that they recognised the square shape, but in six-month-old babies no gamma oscillations could be detected.

The authors suggest that this difference "may show that there is an important development in how the brain organises information from the outside world at that age." It may also be possible to develop the techniques used in the research to diagnose psychological illnesses such as autism at an early stage of development.

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