Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Abnormal Part of Brain Believed to be Cause of SIDS

An area of the brain that is responsible for breathing, arousal, and other key functions may be the missing link behind the cause of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). The study, completed by Children's Hospital Boston and Harvard Medical School, provides hope that a treatment for the devastating problem may one day be possible. It may also go a long way in explaining just why babies who are lying face down are more acceptable. When lying face down, the infant's reflexes and sense of a arousal are more challenged making breasting more difficult.

The limited study focused on the deaths of 41 infants who died in California and included data obtained from their autopsies. The abnormality was found on the lower part of the brainstem, the medulla oblongata, responsible for serotonin production. Serotonin acts as an arousal agent waking infants from their sleep when some physical condition is not correct. SIDS is caused by the inhalation of excess carbon dioxide when the baby is face down or when it's face is covered.

In children with normal serotonin production, the agent wakes the children up and prompts them to move allowing them to inhale more oxygen. Children who do not produce enough serotonin, however, do not receive this stimuli and fail to wake up despite the danger eventually causing their death if the baby is deprived of oxygen for too long. More public is needed for the problem and campaigns are underway to inform the public of the risks associated with SIDS. The study may aid others in creating a test for the defect and in creating a drug to combat the problem.

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