Solving the SIDS Mystery?
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Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is the leading cause of death for babies ages 1 month to 1 year old. The causes of SIDS are still not fully understood, and while the Back to Sleep campaign has eliminated many deaths, SIDS is still a worry for new parents.
Now, researchers from Children's Hospital Boston say the brain chemical serotonin may be to blame. Serotonin is partly responsible for regulating breathing, blood pressure, heart rate and other involuntary actions as we sleep. According to the researchers, low levels of serotonin may put a baby at risk of SIDS. Normally, serotonin helps babies wake up when they have breathing problems in their sleep, so they can turn their heads and breathe in fresh air. But babies with low serotonin levels may never wake.
In a small study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the researchers measured serotonin in 41 babies who dying of SIDS and compared it to the levels of babies dying of other causes. The results? The babies who had SIDS had serotonin levels 26 percent lower than the other babies. The researchers hope these findings lead to the development of a test that will help identify babies with low serotonin levels, and treatment to prevent these tragic deaths.
Related: Sudden Infant Death Syndrome