Marmoset fathers show changes in brain structure and hormone receptors in a region called the prefrontal cortex when compared with non-fathers, reports a paper in the September 2006 issue of Nature Neuroscience.
Male marmosets provide extensive parental care, carrying their babies more than half the time during the first three months of an infant's life. Elizabeth Gould and colleagues found that first-time or experienced marmoset fathers had a higher density of 'spines' - a major site of connections between brain cells - on the dendrites of prefrontal neurons than non-fathers, who also lived in mated pairs.
Fathers also had more of a particular receptor for the neuropeptide vasopressin, which is involved in parental behavior; expression of the receptors was higher in fathers whose babies were younger, suggesting that this change may be caused by contact with infants.
These findings demonstrate that fatherhood causes changes in brain structure, but further work is necessary to determine their precise functional effects.
Elizabeth Gould (Princeton University, NJ, USA)
Abstract available online.
(C) Nature Neuroscience press release.
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