Fatherhood can change a man’s life; it can also change his brain. While most studies of the neurological changes that occur in early parenthood have focused on mom, scientists have recently discovered that dad experiences his own distinct mental shifts after bringing home his little bundle of joy. Some of these changes are immediate, and others occur gradually as the proud papa settles into his new role.
A study analyzed 16 fathers several weeks after their babies were born, and again a few months later. At each check, the researchers used an MRI to image the brain. Compared with the earlier scans, the MRI at three to four months postpartum showed growth in the hypothalamus, amygdala, and other regions that regulate emotion, motivation, and decision making. In men exclusively, parts of the brain that related to self-related thinking and responding to threats shrank, while the area responsible for empathy and auditory processing grew. This is your brain on baby.
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