Babies see it coming

September 24, 2009

Do infants only start to crawl once they are physically able to see danger coming? Or is it that because they are more mobile, they develop the ability to sense looming danger? According to Ruud van der Weel and Audrey van der Meer, from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim, infants' ability to see whether an object is approaching on a direct collision course, and when it is likely to collide, develops around the time they become more mobile. Their findings have just been published online in the Springer journal Naturwissenschaften.

An approaching object on a collision course projects an expanding image on the , providing information that the object is approaching and how imminent the danger is. Looming stimuli create waves of in the visual cortex in adults. The authors investigated how, and where, the infant brain extracts and processes information about imminent collision.

They used high-density electroencephalography to measure in 18 five- to eleven-month-old infants, when a growing multicolored dot on a screen (the looming stimulus) approached the infants at three different speeds. The researchers also recorded the gaze of both eyes.

They found that infants' looming-related brain activity clearly took place in the . The more mature infants (ten to eleven months old) were able to process the information much quicker than the younger infants aged five to seven months. These findings suggest that there are well-established neural networks for registering impending collision in ten- to eleven-month-olds, but not yet in five- to seven-month-olds. For the eight- to nine-month-old infants, they are somewhere in between.

The authors comment: "This could be interpreted as a sign that appropriate neural networks are in the process of being established and that the age of eight to nine months would be an important age for doing so. Coincidentally, this is also the average age at which infants start crawling. This makes sense from a perspective where brain and behavioral development go hand in hand. Namely, as gain better control of self-produced locomotion, their perceptual abilities for sensing looming danger improve."

More information: van der Weel FR & van der Meer ALH (2009). Seeing it coming: infants' responses to looming danger. Naturwissenschaften, DOI 10.1007/s00114-009-0585-y

Source: Springer

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Babies can learn that hard work pays off

September 21, 2017
If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. A new study from MIT reveals that babies as young as 15 months can learn to follow this advice. The researchers found that babies who watched an adult struggle at two different ...

Study links brain inflammation to suicidal thinking in depression

September 21, 2017
Patients with major depressive disorder (MDD) have increased brain levels of a marker of microglial activation, a sign of inflammation, according to a new study in Biological Psychiatry by researchers at the University of ...

Oxytocin turns up the volume of your social environment

September 20, 2017
Before you shop for the "cuddle" hormone oxytocin to relieve stress and enhance your social life, read this: a new study from the University of California, Davis, suggests that sometimes, blocking the action of oxytocin in ...

Researchers develop new tool to assess individual's level of wisdom

September 20, 2017
Researchers at University of San Diego School of Medicine have developed a new tool called the San Diego Wisdom Scale (SD-WISE) to assess an individual's level of wisdom, based upon a conceptualization of wisdom as a trait ...

Alcohol use affects levels of cholesterol regulator through epigenetics

September 20, 2017
In an analysis of the epigenomes of people and mice, researchers at Johns Hopkins Medicine and the National Institutes of Health report that drinking alcohol may induce changes to a cholesterol-regulating gene.

Self-control may not diminish throughout the day

September 20, 2017
After a long day of work and carefully watching what you eat, you might expect your self-control to slip a little by kicking back and cracking open a bag of potato chips.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.