As any new parent knows, having a baby provides opportunities for enrichment, learning and stress - experiences known to change the adult brain. Yet surprisingly little is known about the effects of maternal experience, and even less about the effects of paternal experience, on neural circuitry not directly involved in parenting. Here we discuss how caregiving and the accompanying experiential and hormonal changes influence the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex, brain regions involved in cognition and mood regulation. A better understanding of how parenting impacts the brain is likely to help in devising strategies for treating parental depression, a condition that can have serious cognitive and mental health consequences for children.
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