Researchers give more insight into the mystery of infant consciousness
According to the authors, the findings, which were published in the journal Trends in Cognitive Science, have substantial clinical, ethical, and perhaps legal consequences.
DUBLIN: An international team of researchers from Trinity College Dublin and colleagues in Australia, Germany, and the United States discovered evidence that some sort of conscious experience is present at birth, and possibly even in late pregnancy.
According to the authors, the findings, which were published in the peer-reviewed journal Trends in Cognitive Science, have substantial clinical, ethical, and perhaps legal consequences.
In the study, entitled 'Consciousness in the cradle: on the emergence of infant experience', the researchers argue that by birth the infant's developing brain is capable of conscious experiences that can make a lasting imprint on their developing sense of self and understanding of their environment.
The team comprised neuroscientists and philosophers from Monash University, in Australia, University of Tubingen, in Germany, University of Minnesota, in the USA, and Trinity College Dublin. Although each of us was once a baby, infant consciousness remains mysterious, because infants cannot tell us what they think or feel, explains one of the two lead authors of the paper Dr Tim Bayne, Professor of Philosophy at Monash University (Melbourne).
"Nearly everyone who has held a newborn infant has wondered what, if anything, it is like to be a baby. But of course we cannot remember our infancy, and consciousness researchers have disagreed on whether consciousness arises 'early' (at birth or shortly after) or 'late' - by one year of age, or even much later."
To provide a new perspective on when consciousness first emerges, the team built upon recent advances in consciousness science. In adults, some markers from brain imaging have been found to reliably differentiate consciousness from its absence, and are increasingly applied in science and medicine. This is the first time that a review of these markers in infants has been used to assess their consciousness.