Researchers at Londons Birkbeck College have found that six-month-old infants dont see the world in the same way adults, or even eight-month olds, do. Indeed, new findings reported in the November 24 issue of Science suggest that before eight months, babies are unable to group the different attributes of a single object together to see it as a wholesay, as we might automatically group the base and the shade of a lamp. To study this phenomenon, the researchers showed 11 six-month olds and 11 eight-month olds two different versions of a collection of Pacman-like shapes (see inset in image). In one version, the "mouths" of the Pacmen faced towards each other, forming a so-called Kanizsa Square; in the other, they didnt form a single object.
Earlier studies with adults showed that recognizing the Kanizsa Square framed by the Pacmen shapes prompted a burst of brain activity known as gamma oscillations. So the scientists looked for the same reaction in the babies, using a Geodesic Sensor Neta child-friendly form of an EEG. They discovered that whereas the older infants did show gamma oscillations when viewing the Kanizsa Square, the younger ones did not. "Understanding how an infant brain develops in obviously fascinating and may have implications for the education and care of babies," says lead author Gergely Csibra. "This new work not only tells us that babies as young as eight months recognize complex objects in the same way an adult does, but also allows us to think of new studies into early infant development.