What Babies Know About Their Bodies and Themselves

How infants’ brains respond to touch may indicate their understanding of their bodies, researchers say.

This article indicates that babies have even at two months sophisticated brain activity and responsiveness to touch. I believe viability is generally set at three months.


Dr. Meltzoff was the first author on a study published in late June in the journal Developmental Science, which looked at how 60-day-old infants’ brains responded when different parts of the body were gently tapped.

The researchers put stretch caps containing EEG electrodes on the babies. These sensors, which are painless for the babies, record brain activity.

“There was a neural signature, a spatial distribution of electrical activity in the EEG that helped show us what part of the brain was active,” Dr. Meltzoff said. When the left hand or foot was touched, they saw activity in the right side of the brain, as they expected; in an area closer to the center for the foot, and further to the side for the hand; when the upper lip was touched, the activity was bilateral.

“Not only does this touch produce a robust and measurable response in the brain, but that response is extremely organized,” said Dr. Joni Saby, the other author. “The strongest response is to the lips, which is interesting because babies this age spend most of their time eating, sucking.”

What do you mean by viability?

The study doesn’t seem to have been done prenatally, but on babies.

What babies “know” about their bodies is that it seems like a good idea to wipe their nose and then immediately smear it into their eyes before you can stop them. Slippery little things, babies.

Yes, you are right. The first time I read this I was thinking it was prenatal. Besides I don’t think viability is 3 but 5 months - different topic.

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