Fatherhood Changes Men’s Brains

Bradley Mattes   |   December 08, 2022

Relatively new research utilizing MRIs has established that pregnancy physically alters a woman’s brain.

What about the dads? Does fatherhood have a physical impact on a man’s brain? The research will surprise you.

With the help of MRIs, researchers discovered that pregnancy enhances neuroplasticity in a woman’s brain, meaning the ability to alter the neural pathways and synapses as a result of an experience. They also found that pregnancy impacts the size of a woman’s brain and the outer surface, including what they call “theory of mind,” which involves making conclusions about the minds of other people. This would obviously benefit a mother attending to an infant who is unable to express needs or concerns.

But What About the Dads?

Multiple studies reveal hormonal changes that impact the behavior in men who interact with their infants. But until now, there was nothing to document that fatherhood physically modifies the brains of men.

A new study from the University of Southern California and the Instituto de Investigacion Sanitaria Gregorio Maranon in Madrid was published in Cerebral Cortex on September 7, 2022. It suggests that the father’s brain is also impacted physically by the birth of his child.

The study recruited 40 men – 20 in America and another 20 in Spain – plus a control group of 17 childless men.

They performed two MRIs on each man, the first during the pregnancy and again when the baby was six months old. The process included the control group of childless men.

The MRIs revealed “significant changes in the brains” of the fathers that were not present in the childless men. The areas affected were in a region of the cortex that controls “visual processing, attention and empathy toward the baby.”

Researchers say the degree of brain plasticity may correlate with the level of the fathers’ interaction with their babies. The MRIs of those fathers who were less involved with their babies demonstrated more subtle changes in their brains. Spanish fathers are more likely to experience a generous paternity leave resulting in increased time spent with their infants. As a result, these fathers may be more familiar with their infants’ cues compared to the fathers in California.

It is well known that the birth of a child will change a dad’s world. Now budding science suggests infants leave their mark in more ways than one, creating a physical bond with both the mother and father. This is more tangible evidence that underscores the importance of an intact family unit.

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4 thoughts on “Fatherhood Changes Men’s Brains

  1. Es una maravilla lo que hace en los padres el interactuar con los hijos. es una bendición de Dios.

    It’s wonderful what it does for parents to interact with their children. It’s a blessing from God.

  2. I believe that stem cells from the baby migrate to a pregnant mother’s brain. It has been shown that stem cells lodge near the breasts and help protect from breast cancer. It has also been shown that when a pregnancy is terminated, the quantity of stem cells released greatly increases. It is also known that when a person experiences pain, chemicals are generated in the body. Put 2 and 2 and 2 together, and what can I conclude? Among other things, that a mother who has an abortion will have stem cells released at the time of her baby’s murder, in her brain, which will contain this chemical, and this is a major factor in the harm that abortion does to mothers. I would love to see a study about the stem cells of the baby migrating to the mother’s brain as another change in her brain, and it is reasonable to conclude that the increased plasticity in her brain is due to the embryonic stem cells there. This would bode well for stroke victims, for instance.

  3. Very, very good artcle, I realize the same in my paediatrics practice, following for more than 40 years the women with theirs babies, as I notice the same with the dads, less than for women, of course

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