A new study has revealed that the ability of infants to see whether an object is nearing them, and to judge when it is likely to collide, develops around the time they become more mobile.
Ruud van der Weel and Audrey van der Meer, from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim, used high-density electroencephalography to measure brain activity in 18 five- to eleven-month-old infants, when a growing multi-coloured dot on a screen approached the babies at three different speeds.
The researchers also recorded the gaze of both eyes.
They observed brain activity in the visual cortex among the infants in response to the growing multi-coloured dot.
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.
The researchers say that their 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 say: "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 behavioural development go hand in hand. Namely, as infants gain better control of self-produced locomotion, their perceptual abilities for sensing looming danger improve."
The study has been published online in the Springer journal Naturwissenschaften.