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Study: Parenting Rewires Male Brain

(File) Gay parents Mark Krieger, left, and Paul Siebold with their baby girl in this undated photo.
You do not have to be a mother to 'mother' a child.

The maternal instinct ‒ long associated only with females ‒ is actually developed in the brain of any person who decides to become a parent.

According to a new study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, caring for a child influences a father’s brain by rewiring some circuits to resemble that of a mother.

Researchers in Israel followed first-time parents in two types of households ‒ traditional, with a biological father and mother, and homosexual male couples, in which one partner was also the biological father of a child born by a surrogate mother.

MRI scans of their brains and other tests showed activation of two separate but linked neural pathways that process strong emotions, vigilance and reward. All the men’s brains showed activity similar to mothers’ brains.

Scientists say the study’s results strongly suggest that hands-on parenting can reconfigure the brain of a father the same way that pregnancy and childbirth change the mother's brain.