Collection of networks are previously formed in the brains of newborns asserts a new research. The study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences challenges earlier theories on brain’s activity and development.

Functional MRI scanning was used by the team led from the MRC Clinical Sciences Centre at Imperial College London. The research studied the ‘resting state’ networks in the brains of 70 babies. They were born between 29 and 43 weeks of development, and were being treated at the Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust.

Connected systems of neurons in the brain that are constantly active, even when a person is not focusing on a particular task, or during sleep is known as resting state networks. These networks were found to be equivalent to the adult level when the babies reached the normal time of birth.

A resting state network was noted and determined in the babies as the default mode network believed to be involved in daydreaming and introspection. MRI scans have determined that the default mode network is greatly active when an individual is not undertaking a particular task but is comparatively active while tasks are being performed consciously.

Previous research suggested that the default mode network formed as the individual aged. It was believed that it was not properly formed in babies and that it developed during early childhood. The new study may provide the basic foundation for conscious introspection as the default mode network has been found fully formed in newborns. However, it cannot be only thing, say the researchers behind the study.

Professor David Edwards the lead author of the study from the MRC Clinical Sciences Centre at Imperial College London, said, “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.”

The resting state networks majorly develop only post 30 weeks or in the third trimester of pregnancy. The study also found that the resting state networks are almost complete by 40 weeks. Some of the babies involved in the study were scanned under sedation while others were not. However, no difference was found in the results between sedated and non-sedated babies.

“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 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.”

A 4-dimensional brain atlas was used by the researchers to map the brain activity of the babies against previously known location of different brain networks. The Department of Computing at Imperial College London developed the 4-dimensional brain atlas.