Recent studies have demonstrated that babies use touch more than any other sense to gather information during the first months of their lives.
The human baby is quite a remarkable thing, and babies' minds even more so. It's hard to think back to a time when we were babies, although many of us can more or less pinpoint our earliest memory. For most, that memory came at about the age of three or four years old. Those first few years of our lives are only remembered by those around us and we have to rely on our parents and families telling us what we were like when we were babies.
What are we up to during those formative years though? Well, we're learning of course. Learning to walk, and talk, but how about really early on? Some recent studies suggest that we are learning right from the beginning of life and that learning is being done primarily through touch as opposed to seeing and listening. In fact, during pregnancy, touch is the first sense to develop in a baby's brain.
Dr. Andrew Meltzoff of the University of Washington recently conducted study that tested how 60-day old infants respond to touch, and he discussed his findings with the New York Times. When the left hand was touched, a response registered in the right-hand side of the babies' brains, as expected. Interestingly though, "The strongest response is to the lips" Dr. Joni Soby explained, the other author on the study. Since infants of that age primarily use their lips to eat and suck, that makes a lot of sense.
Another study conducted earlier this year provided even more proof that babies utilize touch during the first stages of their lives. Seven-month-olds were shown footage of someone else's hand being touched, and it activated the areas in the brain that would become active if their own hands were being touched. That means "babies as young as 7 months are able to connect self and other,” Dr. Meltzoff explained.
What all of this means is that before babies do anything else, before they see us walking around on two feet and trying to mimic us, or hear us speak and in turn learn to talk, they are first discovering themselves. When they lie in their cribs and throw their hands around and grab at their face, they are learning about their own bodies and using touch to do so more than any other sense.