Parents may not be surprised by the finding that being a parent actually changes your brain (some may be surprised that the changes are good ones!). Research shows that parents have different patterns of brain activity in some areas than non-parents.
One study found that hormonal changes that occur in pregnancy increase the number of dendrites in the brain. Dendrites are the projections from a neuron (or brain cell) that act to facilitate communication between neurons. So, the more dendrites, the more chance of neural connections. The neural connections that are created during pregnancy have been shown in rat studies to enhance memory and learning. This is likely to be because learning and memory are important in raising young.
In another study, the brains of both male and female parents were shown to respond differently from non-parents to emotion provoking sounds. In parents, the parts of the brain that process emotions - most notably the amygdala - reacted more strongly to the sound of a baby crying, while non-parents brains' responded more to laughter.
As this occurred in both males and females, this indicates that some neural changes are triggered by the environment as well as by hormonal changes and genes.
This is another amazing example of neuroplasticity, or the amazing ability of the brain to change and adapt to new experiences. Visit our earlier blogs to read about neuroplasticity in children and middle age/older adults.
And, as always, we'd love to hear your comments (below) or you can contact us for any queries.