A low serotonin level may be the cause of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), according to new research.
Abnormal levels of brain chemical serotonin may affect sleep, breathing and the heart rate of babies, researchers at Harvard Medical School and Children’s Hospital Boston said.
Serotonin levels may affect an infant’s ability to breathe, especially in circumstances such as breathing in too much exhaled carbon dioxide while sleeping face down, the study said.
Serotonin levels were found to be 26% lower in babies who died of SIDS than in those who died from other causes. Low levels of the enzyme tryptophan hydroxylase needed to make serotonin were also found.
National Institute of Child Health and Human Development director Dr Alan Guttmacher was quoted by Reuters as saying that placing infants on their backs to sleep is an effective way of reducing the risk of SIDS.
“The findings provide clues to the biological basis of SIDS, which will leading to us finding additional strategies for reducing the risk of SIDS for all infants,” he said.
The study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, was funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.