A new study published in the journal Science suggests that babies become conscious of their environment by the time they are five months old, a finding that has drawn skepticism from some experts.
Researchers led by Sid Kouider of École Normale Supérieure in Paris showed pictures of faces and random patterns to 80 infants aged five, 12 and 15 months and recorded electrical activity in their brains with the help of electroencephalography (EEG).
The researchers said that they were able to identify a two-stage pattern of brain activity, which indicates recognition in adults, among all three groups of the infants, though it was weaker and more drawn out in the five-month-olds.
While the researchers said that the presence of the electrical activity in the brain indicates that infants as young as five months old are able to develop consciousness, other experts believe that one should not jump to conclusions simply because of similar brain activity patterns. Says Charles Nelson, a cognitive neuroscientist at Harvard Medical School, "I would be reluctant to attribute the same mental operation, such as consciousness, to infants and adults simply because of similar patterns of brain activity."