May 14, 2010
A new study by Canadian researchers published online in Nature Neuroscience shows that, at least in mice, fathers who bond with their offspring develop new neurons in the brain. For the mouse fathers, it seems to be odor and nuzzling that stimulates the bonding and nerve growth, and allows them to recognize their offspring even when the young have become adults, protecting them rather than fighting with them. The results show that bonding and recognition is associated with growing new brain neurons. The researchers had previously shown that female mice grew new neurons during bonding with males.
In a separate study, scientists showed that a mother's touch can do much more than comfort a baby. Dr. Tallie Baram has shown that touching and caressing trigger changes in a baby's brain that improve cognitive function and build resilience to stress later in life. The study is published in The Journal of Neuroscience.
Early parental involvement and caring apparently has longer-lasting effects than we knew previously. And for fathers, it might help make them a bit smarter, too.