Strong evidence now shows that human and animal parenting share many nervous system mechanisms. This is the conclusion of Yerkes National Primate Research Center researchers Larry Young, Ph.D., and James Rilling, Ph.D., in their review article about the biology of mammalian parenting, published in this week’s issue of Science. Better understanding this biology could lead to improved social development, benefitting generations of humans and animals to come.
In their article, Young and Rilling review the biological mechanisms governing a shift in mammals’ parental motivation that begins with aversion and transforms into irresistible attraction after giving birth. They say the same molecules that prepare the uterus for pregnancy, stimulate milk production and initiate labor also activate specific neural pathways to motivate parents to nurture, bond with and protect their offspring.