Dr. Hannah Kinney, a neuropathologist at Boston Children’s Hospital, and colleagues reported the first comprehensive study of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) that points to a common set of brain chemical abnormalities in all cases.
The researchers examined 71 cases of infants that died from SIDS between 1997 and 2008 that had been autopsied. The children were segregated into groups that had no potential for SIDS caused by sleeping face down in a pillow, sleeping with another person, or being exposed to high levels of heat from excessive clothing or covering and a group that had no exposure to any of the circumstances previously thought to cause SIDS.
In all cases brain chemical abnormalities were found in all children that died from SIDS.
Brainstem neurochemical abnormalities involving serotonin, serotonin receptors, GABA (gamma-Aminobutyric acid) receptors and a protein that regulates serotonin were found in all the children that died from SIDS. These abnormalities can produce impairment of breathing control, heart rate, blood pressure, temperature, and the ability to awaken when carbon dioxide levels are too high.
The researchers suggest that children who have a potential to die from SIDS due to environment or any other condition be tested for neurochemical abnormalities at birth or soon after to prevent SIDS.