Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Did You Know?

Researchers may have unlocked one of the mysteries surrounding Sudden Infant Death Syndrome ... serotonin. SIDS is the leading cause of death in children age one month to one year. Since the Back to Sleep campaign was initiated, urging parents to put their children to sleep on their backs, SIDS deaths decreased. However, since 2000, the number has reached a plateau.

In a new study, Dr. Hannah Kinney and her colleagues at Children's Hospital Boston compared the brainstems of 41 babies who had died of SIDS to the brainstems of seven babies who died of other causes and five babies who were hospitalized with low oxygen levels before their deaths. In 35 of the 41 SIDS babies, serotonin levels were 26 percent lower than in all the babies who did not die of SIDS and levels of tryptophan, an enzyme that spurs serotonin production, were 22 percent lower. Binding to serotonin receptors was 50 percent lower in SIDS babies.

Serotonin is a brain chemical that helps regulate breathing, temperature, sleeping, waking and other automatic functions. Serotonin can also help babies respond to high carbon-dioxide levels during sleep by helping them wake up and shift their head position to get fresh air.

Combined with the continued practice of placing babies on their backs for greater fresh air exposure, there soon may be testing to predetermine if a child has a low serotonin level and could be at risk for SIDS.

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