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'Dad brain' is real: New study shows men's brains shrink after becoming fathers

By Naomi White|

Ask (almost) any mum if 'mum brain' is real, and they'll tell you they were a lot sharper pre-kids.

Although it's widely accepted that pregnancy can change a woman's brain, little research has been conducted into the effects a new baby can have on a dad's brain.

But according to a new study from the ?Center for the Changing Family at the University of Southern California, 'dad brain' is real.

Published in the Cerebral Cortex journal, ?the international study looked at 20 expectant fathers across both California and Madrid, observing the men before and after becoming fathers. A further 17 childless men ?in Madrid were also observed as a control group.

The study found new dads did show a loss of brain size in certain areas. (Getty)

Researchers found the new fathers lost an average of two per cent of their cortical volume ?after their child was born.

Otherwise known as the 'default mode network' this part of the brain plays a role in the dad's acceptance of and warmth towards their child and can help them better consider their baby's thoughts and feelings.

Though they found a reduction in this area, it's believed to be due to the brain recalibrating, rather than ?a loss in function. As psychologist Darby Saxbe from the center described the changes to the USC it's like a 'remodeling' of the social brain.

"?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," she said.

The changes in dads' brains were not as pronounced as in new mums, however. (Getty)

While the changes were not as profound as those to a mum's brain after giving birth one study found not only does a woman's grey matter shrink, the changes remain for at least two years post-partum, there is some good news for women.

Having children can have benefits for women in later life, according to researchers at Monash University.

Studying the brains of women aged in their seventies and eighties, researchers ?found those with more children had more grey matter in the areas of the brain related to memory.

And the more children a woman had, they found, the better their brain activity in this region. ?

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