Posted by: Ticktock | July 4, 2008

Sudden Infant Death Serotonin


New research on mice confirms previous studies that link SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) to levels of serotonin in the brain. 

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter synthesized by tryptophan that modulates sleep, body temperature, mood, sexuality, and metabolism.  SIDS has previously been linked to polymorphism of the serotonin transporter gene, but researchers have been unable to replicate the connection between infant death and serotonin until now.  For the first time, we’ve seen a direct link between serotonin level and death in the laboratory.

Italian scientists from the European Molecular Biology Laboratory bioengineered mice with low levels of serotonin.  Some of the younger mice underwent crises in which their serotonin went haywire and caused a drop in heart rate and temperature, and for many, instant death.  The scientists are guessing that the crises may have occured during the transition from sleep to wake, which may simply be an effort on their part to stretch the connection between their results with crib death.  More research is needed to understand why and how these mice died, but for now, the answers are justifiably leading the scientists toward a SIDS connection.

These scientists are quick to caution that the low serotonin mice are not really comparable at all to babies, who don’t carry the overactive spastic serotonin gene found in these unusual mice.  The research merely shows a link between serotonin and sudden death, but does not indicate the exact biological mechanism for such deaths.

We are obviously still learning about SIDS and why it happens.  In the meantime, there are a few steps that any parent can take to lower the risk of SIDS:

  • Put baby on her back, not on front or side
  • Put baby on a firm mattress (no crazy waterbed naps)
  • Keep the baby’s room a comfortable temperature
  • Avoid smoking around the baby

I’m skeptical of a few recommendations for a number of reasons, but I’ll include them to be fair:

  • Breastfeed
  • Do not co-sleep
  • Use a pacifier


  1. […] SIDS is also linked to serotonin levels.  Check out my article here. […]

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