The Daddy Brain

Recent research suggests that fatherhood not only changes dad’s brain, but improves it

According to Scientific American Mind, families headed by single fathers are the fastest-growing household type in the U.S. As these changes happen, so too is research taking more seriously the biological changes that occur within the father. Such research continues to prove that fathers are as biologically responsive as mothers. Here are a few examples of what’s going on in the brain of fathers:

(1) Dad’s brain releases more prolactin, a hormone that is elevated in new mothers who are highly responsive to their babies. Along with this, the brain eases testosterone production in new dads by about one third during the first few weeks of parenthood, a change that many believe may result in less aggression and more nurturing. (Storey et al. Memorial University of Newfoundland.)

(2) Father mice were better foragers than bachelor mice–better able to find food throughout mazes. They also showed less stress when in strange situations or when presented with a new stimulus. Researchers found more nerve fibers in the father’s (and foster father’s brain) as well as more oxytocin and vasopressin, hormones that are associated with caregiving. (Lambert, Randolph-Macon College, cited in Scientific American Mind.)

(3) “A recent study has shown that neurogenesis took place in male mice in the days following the birth of their pups. But the extra boost of brain cells only occurred if the mouse father stayed in the nest. In other words, if he was removed on the day of their birth, nothing happened. One new set of brain cells formed in the olfactory bulb, and were specifically tuned to the smells of his pups. Another set of neurons grew in the hippocampus, a crucial memory center in the brain, which helped to consolidate the smell of his pups into a long-term memory.” (The Brains of Our Fathers: Does Parenting Rewire Dads.)

Photo–Mollenborg/Flickr

Premium Membership, The Good Men Project

About Cameron Conaway

Cameron Conaway is a former MMA fighter, an award-winning poet and the 2014 Emerging Writer-in-Residence at Penn State Altoona. He is the author of Caged: Memoirs of a Cage-Fighting Poet, Bonemeal: Poems, Until You Make the Shore and Malaria, Poems. Conaway is also on the Editorial Board at Slavery Today. Follow him on Google+ and on Twitter: @CameronConaway.

Comments

  1. God forbid we criticize women for being anything but themselves. But anything that makes a single mouse less like a single mouse is an “improvement” and we human men should take heed?

  2. wellokaythen says:

    So, as someone who will never have children, my brain will never be as good as it would be if I had children? Oh well, still not changing my mind.

    (Perhaps I can get some of these benefits from being a pet owner?)

    I would think in some cases some of these “improvements” would be offset by lack of sleep, the stress of worrying about your children, boredom, lack of adult conversation, etc. Those things must have an impact on brain chemistry and neurogenesis. Is the increase in cortisol and other stress chemicals worth the increase in the “good” chemicals? Maybe for some but not for others….

    • Dear wellokaythen,

      For the most part scientific studies do not extend into areas well beyond the variables the study was originally intended to control and address. It is not and cannot make a statement about men who choose not to have kids because this would be an entirely different phenomenon and outside the scope of such specific research. Please try to take it for its surface value. I didn’t post this to make any large societal statement (I personally do not and may never have kids) but to show what some current research is suggesting.

      I totally agree with you about being a pet owner, lack of sleep, stress, lack of adult stimulation, etc. These would all certainly alter the entire study if they were part of it. They are part of reality, however, and this is where I think you are right on.

      ~Cameron

      • Could be the brain changing in self defense of sleeplessness, anxiety, etc. A single man would not require brain metamorphosis, generally. :)

  3. Such research continues to prove that fathers are as biologically responsive as mothers.

    I’m sorry but I read that far and I had to stop – I simply could not get past the Shocking Levels of Bias which I have never seen here before*. If such terrible things keep being said about men I will have to send back my subscription.

    Yours in Shocked Amazement,

    P^)

    PS I was having one hell of a laugh talking to an associate about a conversation between a feminists a Christian fundamentalist and a geneticist – it’s funny but with some folks you can’t tell the difference between them even when using Poe’s Law,and it’s outside of Poe’s paradox. . There has to be a new meme in there somewhere.

    • @mediaHound: If you dare, I would like very much to get your opinions on the use of language to control narratives without being seen as controlling in order to avoid social ire and the isolation that often accompanies abuses of certain kinds of power. The thread is, “Why are Black women ALSO Afraid of Black men”.

      • ogwriter, i agree the “Why are Black women ALSO Afraid of Black men” article was terrible as the ‘Gay Men’s Sexism and Women’s Bodies’ one. Right up there with the monstrous ‘gaslighting’

      • @mediaHound: If you dare, I would like very much to get your opinions on the use of language to control narratives without being seen as controlling in order to avoid social ire and the isolation that often accompanies abuses of certain kinds of power. The thread is, “Why are Black women ALSO Afraid of Black men”.

        You’re not asking much then?

        “An immature man with too much testosterone flowing is a news story just waiting to happen.” – Read More

        That one needs so much deconstruction it would take a week! P^)

        Some people are all about using that swear word “happening” – and they never do anything and the also have real issues with being! Some are just anchor persons in their own little media empire, with 24/7 news about what is happening – and they never make news cos they can’t be doing anything and have done nothing! … hell they can’t even use verbs the right way.

  4. @wellokthen: As a single of three, i can tell you with no hesistation that my brain is no better than anyone else’s and I am sure my kids would agree. For all of the benefis owith the changes that occur wiht daddy brain, it is bittersweet., but, for me,worth the trouble. I have since learned a great a deal about patience in dealing with teenagers that Imy advanced daddy brain didn’t know or do so well. I learned this from a much younger man who has no kids.

    • wellokaythen says:

      Fair enough. I think any intense emotional experience can transform someone into a better person. I just think, as you mentioned, too, that there’s a trade-off. Either way, a man’s going to gain in some brain capacity and lose in others.

      That thing where parents develop a tolerance for constant loud noise from their children? I think that’s an amazing ability that I envy every time I go out in public. I don’t know if I could ever develop that brain tolerance without having kids of my own.

      • @wellokthen: Don’t let the smooth taste fool you. Though I was born predisposed to handling babies, It wasn’t until I had them that the brain reorganizing that got me over the hump actuall emerged.Which , I think is why the empty nest hurts so much.Your brain gets rewired to perform differently then it’s gone and you must rewire your brain once again.

  5. Richard Aubrey says:

    Might be why the ratio of live-in BFs abusing children to biological fathers abusing children is about a hundred to one.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Recent research suggests that fatherhood not only changes dad's brain, but improves it (RT @TMatlack: Recent research suggests that fatherhood not only changes dad’s brain, but improves it: "Daddy Brain" http://t.co/dK6N2s0h…)…  [...]

  2. [...] Recent research suggests that fatherhood not only changes dad's brain, but improves it (RT @TMatlack: Recent research suggests that fatherhood not only changes dad’s brain, but improves it: "Daddy Brain" http://t.co/dK6N2s0h…)…  [...]

Speak Your Mind