Brain May Be More Developed at Birth Than
THURSDAY, Nov. 4 (HealthDay News) -- Babies are born with an
important collection of fully formed brain networks, including one
linked to introspection, a new study shows.
The findings challenge previous ideas about early-stage brain
development and activity.
Scientists at the MRC Clinical Sciences Center at Imperial
College London used functional MRI to examine the brains of 70
babies born at between 29 and 43 weeks. The scans showed that
full-term babies have adult-equivalent resting state networks.
These are connected systems of neurons that are always active, even
when a person is not focusing on a particular task or is
One fully formed resting state network identified in babies is
called the default mode network, which is believed to be involved
in introspection and daydreaming. Previous research had indicated
this network was incomplete at birth and developed during early
"Some researchers have said that the default mode network is responsible for introspection -- retrieving autobiographical memories and envisioning the future, etc. The fact that we found it in newborn babies suggests that either being a fetus is a lot more fun than any of us can remember -- lying there happily introspecting and thinking about the future -- or that this theory is mistaken," lead author David Edwards said in a news release from Imperial College London.
"Our study shows that babies' brains are more fully formed than we thought. More generally, we sometimes expect to be able to explain the activity we can see on brain scans in terms of someone thinking or doing some task. However, most of the brain is probably engaged in activities of which we are completely unaware, and it is this complex background activity that we are detecting," Edwards said.
The findings were released online Nov. 1 in advance of
publication in an upcoming print issue of the
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Zero to Three: National Center for Infants, Toddlers and
Families has more about
baby brain development.
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