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Study Shows Dad’s Brain Changes After Baby Is Born

Becoming a parent doesn’t just alter your lifestyle it alters your biology too.
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profile picture of Wyndi Kappes
Assistant Editor
Published
October 11, 2022
father cuddling with baby at home
Image: Anatta_Tan | Shutterstock

We’ve all heard about mom brain, but did you know that dad brain is a thing too?

A new study published in the Cerebral Cortex journal has found that men experience extensive remodeling to their brain after the arrival of their baby—shrinking the visual network and growing the default mode network responsible for empathy.

During the study, researchers scanned and examined the brains of 20 expectant fathers before and after the birth of baby alongside the brains of 17 childless men. Results showed changes in the cortex of fathers’ brains after baby, while there were no significant changes in the brains of the childless men.

These changes that researchers saw are often referred to as neuroplasticity and have been observed in mothers too. “We’re still learning about neuroplasticity, but there is evidence that the brain changes and grows when we develop a new skill, like learning a musical instrument, or during developmental windows like early childhood and adolescence,” Darby Saxbe explained to USC News.

“Becoming a parent entails changes to your lifestyle and your biology and requires new skills like being able to empathize with a nonverbal infant, so it makes sense — but has not been proven — that the brain would be particularly plastic during the transition to parenthood as well.”

So what do these big changes mean for dad? While scientists aren’t sure about why the visual network shrinks after baby’s arrival, the growth of the default mode network—most closely associated with empathy, memory recall and future thinking—can prove valuable in helping dad empathize with a crying baby and keep up with the many memory demands of having a newborn.

While we are still learning more about the way dad and mom’s brain change, you can get a sneak peek into the secret thoughts of newbie dads here.

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