By Kristin Beerman | email
LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) – A new study finds decreased levels of serotonin, an important chemical in the brain that works overtime during sleep, may play a major role in sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS, the leading cause of unexpected death in babies from one month to a year old.
Dr. Hannah C. Kinney, with the Children's Hospital in Boston and co-authors of the study, have found a biological reason why it's not safe for babies to be put to sleep on their tummies. The study says babies with certain serotonin levels have no option, but to re-breath their own carbon dioxide if they're put face down to bed.
"We found that the babies who died of SIDS had abnormalities in serotonin in regions of the brain stem that control breathing and heart rate and blood pressure during sleep," said Dr. Kinney. "A normal baby could respond to that challenge, lift its head up, turn its head and arouse or wake up but a baby who has a defect in those brain stem circuits that use serotonin can't do that when challenged and they go on to die."
The study appears in this week's JAMA, or Journal of the American Medical Association. The long-term goal is to develop a test to identify which babies have this serotonin defect and then try to prevent it altogether.
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