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Dad's Brain Undergo Changes To Be Alike Mothers When He's Primary Caregiver

Update Date: May 27, 2014 10:11 AM EDT
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Fathers who spend more time taking care of their newborn child undergo changes in brain activity that make them more concerned about their baby's safety, according to a new research. 

Researchers noted that particularly, fathers who are primary caregiver, experience an increase in activity in their amygdala and other emotional-processing systems, which makes them experience parental emotions that are typically experienced by mothers. 

According to the study, there is a neural network in the brain dedicated to parenting which responds to changes in the parental roles. 

"Pregnancy, childbirth and lactation are very powerful primers in women to worry about their child's survival," said study senior author Ruth Feldman, a researcher in the department of psychology and the Gonda Brain Sciences Center at Bar-Ilan University in Israel, in the press release. "Fathers have the capacity to do it as well as mothers, but they need daily caregiving activities to ignite that mothering network."

Researchers interacted and studied around 89 first-time parents. They also included 20 primary-caregiving heterosexual mothers and 21 secondary-caregiving heterosexual fathers. 

"It's not something you can find in the animal world, and it's not something you could find in humans until very recently-two committed fathers raising a child," Feldman said. This arrangement forces one man to take the lead role in caring for their child.

Researchers observed that parents' behavior and performed brain scans to see which regions would activate when shown videotapes of interactions between parent and child, the press release added. 

"In fathers, their parenting is guided much more by understanding and empathizing in a cognitive way," Feldman said.

"The more fathers are involved in active caregiving, the more the fathering network will activate the mothering network."

The study has been published in the journal PNAS.

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