Does fatherhood change your brain?

In the wake of the just-plain-bonkers Forbes article of this week — which argued that men shouldn’t marry “career women” because they won’t make subservient enough wives — I was intrigued to read about some claims in a new study: That fatherhood can affect the structure of your brain, making it more goal-oriented.

At least, if you’re a marmoset. A handful of neurologists recently decided to examine the brains of father marmosets. Why? Because male marmosets are exceptionally devoted to their children — they carry ‘em around more than half the time, passing them to the mothers only when the kids need feeding. The scientists theorized that this unusual behavior might cause, or be the result of, slightly tweaked brain structure. Sure enough, when they examined father marmosets, they found that their prefrontal cortexes had suggestions of higher neural activity — more dendtritic spikes. The cortexes also had more receptors for vasopressin, a molecule that influences social behaviour and pair-bonding.

As the Economist reported:

Craig Kinsley of the University of Richmond, Virginia, who did the work with rat mothers, speculates that Dr Gould’s new findings may reflect human behaviour quite closely. “There is a lot of interest in the idea that having children forces responsibility on males in many respects. If you consider that the prefrontal cortex plays a major role in planning, judgment and the anticipation of the consequences of behaviour, you could make a clear argument that the changes in that part of the brain would be involved with judicious attention toward offspring.”

Given that my infant son is now 8 months old, I wonder if my brain is loaded down with tons of juicy vasopressin? I actually don’t have much to add to this, other than the admission that I think I posted this study primarily so I could run a picture of fuzzy little marmosets.

(Thanks to SciTech Daily for this one!)

blog comments powered by Disqus

Search This Site


I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

More of Me


Recent Comments

Collision Detection: A Blog by Clive Thompson