For the longest time, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome has been a mystery. Was it suffocation? Lung function? Smoking nearby? What was causing it?
Well, it turns out it may be a genetic defect.
Researchers with the U.S. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development found evidence that SIDS may be caused by brain stem abnormalities – specifically an imbalance in the way the brain uses serotonin.
According to researcher Marian Willinger, the finding “takes the mystery away from SIDS.”
The article continues.
Aside from regulating mood, serotonin affects breathing, body temperature and waking from sleep. The brain chemical’s functions appear to be compromised when susceptible infants are exposed to risks like sleeping on their bellies, a leading SIDS contributor.
After studying brain tissue from 31 SIDS babies and 10 infants who died of other causes, researchers found the SIDS babies had double the number of nerve cells showing serotonin defects.
“This finding lends credence to the view that SIDS risk may greatly increase when an underlying predisposition combines with an environmental risk – such as sleeping face down – at a developmentally sensitive time in early life,” said Dr. Duane Alexander.
The prime challenge now is developing a method to recognize serotonin imba
lances without drilling a hole in a baby’s head. As it’s a neurotransmitter and the cranial levels are what need to be known, development of a simple chemical test to determine seratonin levels will be the new challenge in defeating SIDS.