Author(s): Lagercrantz H, Changeux JP, Lagercrantz H, Changeux JP
Abstract Share this page
Abstract A simple definition of consciousness is sensory awareness of the body, the self, and the world. The fetus may be aware of the body, for example by perceiving pain. It reacts to touch, smell, and sound, and shows facial expressions responding to external stimuli. However, these reactions are probably preprogrammed and have a subcortical nonconscious origin. Furthermore, the fetus is almost continuously asleep and unconscious partially due to endogenous sedation. Conversely, the newborn infant can be awake, exhibit sensory awareness, and process memorized mental representations. It is also able to differentiate between self and nonself touch, express emotions, and show signs of shared feelings. Yet, it is unreflective, present oriented, and makes little reference to concept of him/herself. Newborn infants display features characteristic of what may be referred to as basic consciousness and they still have to undergo considerable maturation to reach the level of adult consciousness. The preterm infant, ex utero, may open its eyes and establish minimal eye contact with its mother. It also shows avoidance reactions to harmful stimuli. However, the thalamocortical connections are not yet fully established, which is why it can only reach a minimal level of consciousness.
This article was published in Pediatr Res
and referenced in Journal of General Practice