Photo Sofie Gelskov/Sid Kouider

Babies have the same consciousness as adults

Monday 27 May 13


DTU Compute researcher at the Cognitive Systems section Carsten Stahlhut reveals ground-breaking news that babies possess consciousness.

New research results reveal that babies are as consciousness as adults.


Research collaboration 

A baby brain processes stimuli from the surrounding world in exactly the same way as an adult brain. This means that children down to five months have the same consciousness as adults. This new knowledge is published in Science on 18 April 2013 and is the result of a research collaboration between DTU Compute and the French research institution Laboratoire de Sciences Cognitives et Psycholinguistique.


Ecole Normale Supérieure professor Sid Kouider who has carried out part of the research at DTU says: ”This means that a small child’s experience of the world is characterised by consciousness and not automatics or reflexes as assumed until now.”


128 electrodes on 80 baby heads

The researchers used EEG  measurements – measurements of the brain’s electric activity – with 128 electrodes on the heads of 80 babies aged 5, 12 and 15 months. Twice as many babies participated in the test, but the results were not usable as the children were either too tumultuous or tore off the electrodes.


Subsequently, the babies were presented with stimuli in the form of various pictures of faces. The researchers were surprised to observe that the activity in the children’s’ brains looked completely like the activities in the adult brains when they were exposed to the same kind of stimuli. However, with one essential difference: The baby brains work considerably slower.


Two stages of the brain’s processing

Both baby brains and adult brains are activated through two stages: First an unconscious stage and subsequently a conscious stage.


The first stage appears when the brain is activated by short stimuli. The activity disappears at the same time as stimuli if the duration of stimuli is below 50 milliseconds as regards the adults and below 100-150 milliseconds for children. If the stimuli are of longer duration, both the child’s and the adult’s brains will be further activated, and the person will achieve a conscious experience of the stimuli in question. Stimuli become a conscious experience in adults after 300 milliseconds. For small children of 12 and 15 months stimuli become a conscious experience after 900 milliseconds while babies of five months use more than one second to reach consciousness about stimuli.


”Our research shows that a baby brain contains exactly the same mechanisms to handle information from the surrounding world as an adult brain. It’s just much slower,” explains Sid Kouider.


However, the research does not reveal how the children experience the surrounding world or their thoughts about it.


For further information

Sid Kouider, professor at Ecole Normale Supérieure:

Carsten Stahlhut, researcher at DTU Compute:

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