The “Dad Brain”

When a man becomes a father, he gets “Dad Brain.” No, it’s not a disease. It’s a gift every Dad receives with the birth of their child…if they unwrap it. Researchers who obtained MRI scans of 40 men’s brains in Spain and California identified the “Dad Brain.” They actually recorded two MRI scans of each man’s brain: one during their spouse’s first pregnancy and another 6 months after their child was born. They compared the results with scans of 17 men who had no children. What did they find? Having a child changed these men’s brains. Specifically, brain changes appeared in the fathers’ brain regions associated with visual processing, attention, and empathy. These brain changes would enhance the men’s ability to attend to and empathize with their newborn child. In other words, they became more attuned to their child. They had an increased ability to recognize their baby’s needs.

One caveat though. These changes seem to be associated with the level of the father’s involvement in their child’s life. The more involved a father becomes, the more likely to see these brain changes.

What does this mean? Men are designed to be involved in the parenting process. Children benefit when their fathers become involved in their lives. Fathers also benefit from their involvement in their children’s lives. With that in mind, a few suggestions:

  1. Fathers, invest in your children, it’s a precious responsibility. Don’t let busyness, work, or “responsibilities” interfere with your involvement in your children’s lives. They need you and you need them. Get involved. Interact. Play. Converse. Laugh. Learn. Become an integral part of your children’s daily lives. It’s your superpower
  2. Mothers, encourage the father of your children to become involved in your children’s lives. You don’t have to “make it happen” or “convince them” to get involved. Simply open the door, allow them the opportunity. Your children need their father. Encourage that involvement.
  3. Recognize that fathers will engage their children differently than mothers will. Fathers tend to engage in rough and tumble play more often than mothers do. They encourage more adventure and exploration. These differences serve to help our children grow in different ways.  They can help our children move successfully into the world.

Becoming a parent, whether a father or a mother, makes us a new person. Step into the change…lean into it…dive into it. You’ll never regret that you did.

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