Researchers Study Infants and Awareness of Internal Signals
Researchers from the University of Royal Holloway, London, published findings in August on eLife from an experiment that tested how aware babies are of their bodies’ internal signals. The ability to consciously sense signals from one’s body, such as feeling “butterflies” before giving a speech, is called interoception. Some people are more aware of these signals than others, which can influence mental health and a wide range of psychological processes, including decision-making and how strongly one feels emotions.
By creating a new test called iBEATS, the researchers could measure this ability for the first time and found that babies as young as 5 months old are able to sense their own heartbeats.
The researchers measured whether infants can discriminate between an animated character moving in synchrony or out of synchrony with their own heartbeats. Infants preferred to watch the character that was moving out of synchrony, suggesting that even at this early age, they are sensitive to their own interoceptive signals.
By using this test and following babies as they get older, researchers are able to track how awareness to internal bodily signals changes as people age to support self-awareness, emotional and cognitive development — and how these processes impact their mental health as they grow older.