Brain stem abnormalities linked to SIDS, study shows

Underlying brain stem abnormalities may be responsible for the onset of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), a condition that causes babies to die unexpectedly in their sleep, Counsel and Heal reported.

In a study published in the journal Pediatrics, researchers reviewed the cases of 50 infants who died of SIDS. Though some of the infants studied were sleeping in unsafe environments – such as in a face-down position– the researchers discovered that regardless of sleep conditions, all of the babies studied showed abnormalities in their brain stem chemicals.

The researchers believe that these abnormalities prevented the infants from waking up when they experienced trouble breathing. However, the researchers said parents should still make every effort to ensure that their infants sleep in a safe environment.

“We have to find ways to test for this underlying vulnerability in living babies and then to treat it. Our team is focused now upon developing such a test and treatment,” said study author Dr. Hannah Kinney, a neuropathologist at Boston Children’s Hospital. “Safe sleep practices absolutely remain important, so these infants are not put in a potentially asphyxiating situation that they cannot respond to.”

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