You may not know this about me, but right after I check Go Fug Yourself and TMZ every morning, I head right on over to Nature Neuroscience where they publish studies like this: “Fatherhood affects dendritic spines and vasopressin V1a receptors in the primate prefrontal cortex.” Talk about an eye opener.
Actually, I should probably admit that neither my interest in neuroscience nor my wallet can sustain the $199 per year price tag for a Nature Neuroscience subscription. But I am a fan of Scientific American, where they handily and much more inexpensively report on very interesting topics, including this study of the effect of fathering on the prefrontal cortexes of marmosets. The authors conclude that “fatherhood causes neurons in the prefrontal cortex to form many new dendritic spines.” They go on to say that research in primates suggests that a positive relationship exists between the complexity of prefrontal neurons and intelligence. I take this to mean that the more dendritic spines a male marmoset has growing in his prefrontal cortex, the more likely he is to learn how to use a fork, but you might want to double check that with the authors.
Anyway, the long and short of it is that taking an active role in parenting can be enriching for the father’s brain and may actually make him smarter, information to which Cry It Out and Dutch, not to mention my Mate, would probably respond, “Well, Duh.”
Anyway, I think the authors of this study are really onto something. Take my Mate, for example. This weekend he went on a snowboarding trip with Middle, Youngest, two other Dads and three teenage boys. On the first morning, Mate realized than none of the kids paid the slightest attention when their father told them to set the table, clear the table, get dressed, whatever. But the boys speedily complied when asked to do something by someone else’s father. So Mate came up with the idea that the Dads should essentially trade kids for the weekend. Thus, each father spent the weekend bossing unrelated teenagers around. From all reports, this system worked like a charm. Does that man have lots of dendritic spines, or what?