Mouse Dad

In what will be considered as the opening shots in the war against fatherlessness in mice, Montreal’s McGill University just blew the ink dry on a study that concluded that mice that grow up without dads end up being more aggressive than those growing up in monogamous and biparented homes.

The researchers, including McGill University’s own Gabriella Gobbi, Francis R. Bambico, Baptiste Lacoste, Patrick R. Hattan, used mice from California. Evidently, the “best coast” offers warm temperatures, diverse street cultures laid-back attitudes, and mice that display “monogamous bonding and biparental care”.

Not all of the mice though. Some of them grow up without dads. And those mice, dear readers, turn out dickish.

Your favorite bedtime reading, the journal Cerebral Cortex, published the article this month as part of their “California Livin'” issue. That last part’s not true.

The nuts and bolts: researchers used those California mice instead of humans because 1) humans are expensive, and 2) they can more easily control the environment in which the mice live so that they could ensure no outside factors would fudge their sciences.

Dr. Gobbi and company created and analyzed two groups of mice – one raised with both parents and one raised only with a mother. Mice raised without a father turned out more aggressive than those raised by both mouse-parents – especially in female mice. And those paternally-deprived (PD) mice were also especially sensitive to amphetamine. You know, like, the stuff they use to treat stuff like ADHD, depression, oh…and nasal congestion.

Then, there’s the clincher:

We thus demonstrate that, during critical neurodevelopmental periods, PD leads to sex-dependent abnormalities in social and reward-related behaviors that are associated with disturbances in cortical DA and GLU neurotransmission.

So yeah, I don’t know what all that means, but I’m pretty sure “sex-dependent abnormalities” is something I don’t want to tussle with.

Dr. Gobbi noted that the results found are consistent with the ones often found in humans, specifically, “increased risk for deviant behaviour and in particular, girls have been shown to be at risk for substance abuse.” This all had a moral after all. Fatherlessness in humans is (despite our levity concerning mice) a serious problem – which you can read more about on the National Fatherhood Initiative‘s website.

The next time there’s a mouse in your kitchen eating through your boxes of cereal, you might want to spare him the neck-breaking trap and give him a hug. He might have grown up without a father.