Canadian research suggests that dual parenting may be more beneficial than single parenting. It may offer the advantage of enhancing brain cell production in the later stages of life of offspring.
Adult brain cell production might be determined, in part, by the early parental environment, according to researchers at the Hotchkiss Brain Institute. Early life experiences can have tremendous effects on brain development, emotional development and social behavior of individuals throughout their life.
Advertisement'Adverse experiences have been demonstrated to increase the propensity of psychosocial and neuropsychiatric diseases, whereas enriched experiences may increase resilience to stressful psychological and biological events,' reported the researchers.
So, with the objective of investigating whether parental care offered by two rodent parents rather than one had an effect on brain cell development and behavior of the offspring, and whether the effect was different in male and in female offspring, Samuel Weiss and his team studied 8-week old female and male mice who were allowed to mate under experimental conditions. Impregnated females were separated into three groups as per the study requirement where after 18 days females gave birth to a litter of 6-8 pups who were weaned at day 21.
The three groups were-
• Offspring housed with their mother only
• Offspring housed with their mother and an age-matched virgin female mouse
• Offspring housed with their mother and 'father'
Results showed that-
• Parenting behavior of the mother was same in all the three conditions.
• Offspring in the two-parent groups received more attention than those in the mother-only group.
• Offspring behavior and brain cell development differed between male and female offspring in the two-parent groups.
• Male offspring in the two-parent groups showed more fear conditioning than offspring in the mother-only group.
• Female offspring in the two-parent groups showed better co-ordination and also displayed more interest in exploring different objects as compared with raised by mother-only offspring group.
• Male offspring in the two-parent conditions had more growth of cells in hippocampus (the area in the brain for spatial navigation and long term memory).
• Female offspring in the two-parent conditions showed greater production of the white matter (the nerve fibers) of the brain.
The researchers also reported that the advantages of dual parenting are passed on to the next generation, say the researchers.
'Our new work adds to a growing body of knowledge, which indicates that early, supportive experiences have long lasting, positive impact on adult brain function,' says Dr. Samuel Weiss, senior author of the study and director of the HBI.
This study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, offers a possible insight into the factors that may influence animal brain development and behavior.
However, how this study translates in the case human beings is another story altogether. There are many biological and social development differences between mice and human beings, so it will be wrong to assume that the study could directly apply to human beings as well.
What this research does is, it gives insight into the factors influencing brain development and behavior in mammals and it is up to the future research to build on these findings.
Reference: Mak GK, Antle MC, Dyck RH, Weiss S (2013) Bi-Parental Care Contributes to Sexually Dimorphic Neural Cell Genesis in the Adult Mammalian Brain. PLoS ONE 8(5): e62701. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0062701