Babies who die of sudden infant death syndrome usually appear to thrive right up to their last moments. It often seems as if the babies simply forgot to breathe.
Even autopsies have failed to reveal abnormalities associated with SIDS. However, a new study has found brain stem anomalies that may be at fault. They undermine the action of the chemical serotonin, which is critical to respiration, the researchers conclude.
Because the brain stem controls automatic functions such as breathing, problems within that structure have been considered culprits in SIDS. Previous studies found that babies who died of SIDS had fewer serotonin receptors in their brain stems than other babies did. The new study bolsters that finding and reports other abnormalities in the use of serotonin, notes David S. Paterson of Children's Hospital Boston.