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SIDS & Serotonin

August 5, 2008

Irregular brain chemistry may make some babies more prone to SIDS.


Getting to the bottom of SIDS. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Scientists still don’t know what causes sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS. But animal studies in Italy suggest a brain chemical called serotonin may be the key. Neuroscientist Cornelius Gross of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory and his team found that mice with serotonin regulation disorders suffered SIDS-like deaths. As to why, Gross notes that serotonin helps maintain involuntary functions like heart rate and body temperature. But he says genetic deficiencies in infants would probably be mild compared to those in their mice.

CORNELIUS GROSS (European Molecular Biology Laboratory, Italy):
A combination of factors will then be important to determine if and when an infant will have one of these crises and might actually die.

For example, breathing obstructions like crib bumpers may fatally tip the scales for vulnerable babies. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.