What's the Latest Development?
French researchers speculate that infants as young as two months might have independent thoughts. The conclusion is based on recent research that indicates infantile brains function similarly to adult brains in areas such as the prefrontal cortex, where electrical activity indicates consciousness. "Cognitive neuroscientist Sid Kouider of CNRS, the French national research agency, in Paris watched for swings in electrical activity, called event-related potentials (ERPs), in the babies' brains. In babies who were at least 1 year old, Kouider saw an ERP pattern similar to an adult's, but it was about three times slower."
What's the Big Idea?
Consciousness, or a state of self-awareness, is currently inferred by scientists from specific functions in the adult brain according to how it registers the presence of objects in the field of vision. "When your senses detect something, such as a moving object, the vision center of your brain activates, even if the object goes by too fast for you to notice. But if the object remains in your visual field for long enough, the signal travels from the back of the brain to the prefrontal cortex, which holds the image in your mind long enough for you to notice." Scientists register a spike in brain activity when an object is sensed and another when the object registers with the prefrontal cortex.
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