MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
James K. Rilling, PhD
Professor, Anthropology, Psychiatry and Behavioral Science
Emory University School of Medicine
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?
Response: It has been known for a long time that female mammals experience hormonal changes during pregnancy that prepare them to care for their offspring. More recently, it has been shown that some mammalian males, including humans, can also experience hormonal changes that prepare them to care for their offspring. For example, oxytocin levels can increase in human fathers and studies have shown that oxytocin facilitates paternal physical stimulation, play and emotional synchrony with their children. We examined the effects of intranasal oxytocin on brain function in human fathers. We found that intranasal oxytocin increased activation in brain areas involved with reward and empathy when human fathers viewed pictures of their children, but not unknown children.
MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?
Response: Increases in oxytocin associated with the transition to fatherhood likely increase paternal empathy and the motivation to interact with their children. Also, in contrast to some other species, oxytocin may be more important than vasopressin for human paternal caregiving although this needs to be investigated at other doses before it can be definitively concluded.
MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?
Response: Our findings suggest the possibility that oxytocin could be used to treat disorders involving deficits in paternal motivation such as post-partum paternal depression or drug-dependence.
MedicalResearch.com: Thank you for your contribution to the MedicalResearch.com community.
Ting Li, Xu Chen, Jennifer Mascaro, Ebrahim Haroon, James K. Rilling. Intranasal oxytocin, but not vasopressin, augments neural responses to toddlers in human fathers. Hormones and Behavior, 2017; DOI: 10.1016/j.yhbeh.2017.01.006
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