Utilizing Studies on Degus May Impair Fathers' Brain Development: by Randi James


Note: Cross posted from [wp angelfury] Battered Mothers Rights - A Human Rights Issue.



Utilizing Studies on Degus May Impair Fathers' Brain Development by Randi James

I'm sorry, but when I discovered that father's rights supporters were excited about a study utilizing Degus, I had to crack up. What a bunch of bull. WTF is a Degu?

The implications behind the research are that father-absence may cause neurological deficiencies. Sounds so exciting when you need to boost your self-esteem and prove your usefulness.

This Is Your Brain Without Dad

By Shirley S Wang

October 27th 2009

Conventional wisdom holds that two parents are better than one. Scientists are now finding that growing up without a father actually changes the way your brain develops.

German biologist Anna Katharina Braun and others are conducting research on animals that are typically raised by two parents, in the hopes of better understanding the impact on humans of being raised by a single parent. Dr. Braun's work focuses on degus, small rodents related to guinea pigs and chinchillas, because mother and father degus naturally raise their babies together.

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What does raising babies together mean/entail?

How long do they raise their babies together?

When deprived of their father, the degu pups exhibit both short- and long-term changes in nerve-cell growth in different regions of the brain...Their preliminary analysis indicates that fatherless degu pups exhibit more aggressive and impulsive behavior than pups raised by two parents.


And what happened when degus were deprived of their mother?

What type of behavior qualified as more aggressive and impulsive?

Were these behaviors maladaptive?

In the long term, was this change beneficial, or harmful?

Dr. Braun and her colleagues found that in the two-parent families, the degu mothers and fathers cared for their pups in similar ways, including sleeping next to or crouching over them, licking and grooming them, and playing with them. The fathers even exhibited a "nursing-type" position.

When the mother was a single parent, the frequency of her interactions with her pups didn't change much, which means that those pups experienced significantly less touching and interaction than those with two parents.

In similar ways, but did they do so in similar quantity?

If the father was a single parent, could he perform those same activities?

If the father was absent, were there no other degus available to lick and groom the pups?

Dr. Braun's group found that at 21 days, the fatherless animals had less dense dendritic spines compared to animals raised by both parents, though they "caught up" by day 90. However, the length of some types of dendrites was significantly shorter in some parts of the brain, even in adulthood, in fatherless animals.

How did the dendritic spines catch up?

Was the length of the spines directly attributable to father-absence?

A preliminary analysis of the degus' behavior showed that fatherless animals seemed to have a lack of impulse control, Dr. Braun says. And, when they played with siblings, they engaged in more play-fighting or aggressive behavior.

Lack of impulse control as evidenced by what--more play-fighting and aggressive behavior with the siblings?

How is this not a compensation for less touch, period, versus it being specific to father-absence?

In a separate study in Dr. Braun's lab conducted by post-doctoral researcher Joerg Bock, degu pups were removed from their caregivers for one hour a day. Just this small amount of stress leads the pups to exhibit more hyperactive behaviors and less focused attention, compared to those who aren't separated, Dr. Braun says. They also exhibit changes in their brain.


Are we to assume that the results would be the same if the mother was removed?

The basic wiring between the brain regions in the degus is the same as in humans, and the nerve cells are identical in their function. "So on that level we can assume that what happens in the animal's brain when it's raised in an impoverished environment ... should be very similar to what happens in our children's brain," Dr. Braun says.

On that level? What about other levels?

Key words: "impoverished environment."

"The minute you get into stuff with extensive social and environmental components, the social differences between humans and animals are massive," says Simon Chapple, a senior economist in the social policy division of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the 30-country grouping of the world's largest economies.

It remains an "open verdict" whether single parenthood causes these bad outcomes, or is merely associated with them, says Dr. Chapple.


Dr. Braun's goal for future research is to figure out whether degu pups' brains can be rewired by introducing a substitute caregiver, such as a grandmother, or whether other social and emotional enrichment can help "repair" the fatherless pups, she says. Human children may be sent to day care, for instance, which can help them form stable friendships with their peers and other adults.

Question and answer completed. Human children. Human. Not Degus.

Want to know what I found out about Degus?

When they are horny, the boys get all crazy with eachother:

During the annual breeding season, male-male aggression temporarily increases.

They are really selfish, but they may like group sex:

Males exclude other males from their burrow and monopolize the females (usually 2 to 4) who live there.

They have something in common with R. Kelly:

Courting males often engage in mutual grooming with females, and frequently perform a courtship ritual which involves wagging of the tail and trembling of the body. The male then raises a hind leg and sprays urine onto the female.

They are hardcore believers in breastfeeding:

The female subsequently expends considerable energy in gestation and lactation.

Their babies even get different teats in their mouth (maybe learned from dad)...:

Related female degus may nurse each other's young.

...because they believe in shared parenting...:

Females participate in rearing on another's young.

...but they really need their mommies:

They have an elaborate vocal repertoire, and the young need to be able to hear their mother's calls if the emotional systems if their brains are to develop properly.

They may seem a little homosexual, or, parentally alienated, at first:

they generally live in same-sex social groups until they are about 9 months old and their first breeding season occurs.

But they do have admirable behaviors:

Degus nest communally...In the laboratory, the female remains close to the pups until two weeks after birth, and males have been observed to huddle with the young during this period without instances of infanticide. In the wild, male degus may spend as much time feeding and huddling with the young as females do.

And you really shouldn't use Degus to extrapolate findings to humans:

It has been reported that pups raised in isolation in the laboratory experience severe neural and behavioral abnormalities.

Get over yourselves!

Note: Cross posted from [wp angelfury] Battered Mothers Rights - A Human Rights Issue.