17/12/2014 13:02 GMT | Updated 20/05/2015 10:12 BST

Scientists Find 'Switch' To Turn Bad Dads Into Fantastic Fathers


Scientists believe they have found a 'switch' in the brain that can turn bad fathers into doting dads.

Catherine Dulac, a professor of molecular and cell biology at Harvard University, claims to have found a group of neurons that make males more nurturing and transform them into Super Dads.

OK, so the study was only done on mice but, you know, of mice and men and all that! It's a start.

The research focuses on a group of neurons in the brains of mice that have been linked to paternal care.

By shining a light to trigger specific brain cells, the scientists were able to change the approach to parenting of male mice.

Prof Dulac told the Boston Globe: "The fact that we are mammals means we certainly have those neurons as well."

And she said that while the study only focused on male mice it could just as easily be applied to females.

In the research they focused on species of mice where the males were known to attack the children of others. But they would cease the aggressive behaviour when their own pups were due, three weeks after mating with a female.

The researchers searched the brain for the neurons that might be responsible for this change in behaviour and focused on a region known for sensing pheromones.

These scents influence the behaviour of other animals, and was thought to be important in mating. By destroying brain cells in that region, the aggressive nature of virgin male mice was found to drastically decrease.

Instead of attacking young pups, they would nurture them and even build them nests.

Conversely, when they destroyed nerve cells in the middle of the brain in female mice, they made the mothers act more aggressively.