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Baby Brains Are Surprisingly Adult, Movement Study

Update Date: Oct 30, 2013 05:33 PM EDT

The brains of babies are surprisingly sensitive to other people's movements, according to researchers.

Like adults, the brains of babies are stimulated by the movements of other people. Previous research reveals that adult brains activate when they see other humans making movement.  Researchers found that when people witness others making movements with specific body parts, the parts of their brains devoted to moving those body parts also become activated.

For example, the part of your cortex devoted to moving your own hand activates when watching another person move their hand.

Researchers said that there are many developmental and evolutionary theories as to why human brain activity mirrors the movement of other people.  One theory is that the neurobiological foundation of human's ability to imitate others is necessary for cultural leaning and language development. However, previous research has only observed this phenomenon in adults.

In the new study, researchers used non-invasive recording over the scalp of babies to see if babies showed the same type of brain activity when they see movement. The findings revealed that the activity in the hand areas of the cortex of baby brains increased when they saw other people using their hands. The study also found that the foot areas of their cortex increased when babies observed other people moving their feet.

Researchers said the latest finding provides evidence that baby brains are tuned to the mere observation of other people's actions. They say the finding provides insight into out understanding of imitation and cultural leaning.

"The neural system of babies directly connects them to other people, which jumpstarts imitation and social-emotional connectedness and bonding. Babies look at you and see themselves," co-researcher Andrew Meltzoff said in a news release.

The findings are published in the journal PLoS ONE.

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