Researchers believe that brainstem abnormalities, specifically those related to certain serotonin pathways in the brain, may play a bigger role in the development of SIDS than they thought at first. SIDS, for those of you who are not familiar with the term, is Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, and is the leading cause of postneonatal death in the United States. Dictionary.com defines Sudden Infant Death Syndrome as ” death from the sudden cessation of breathing (apnea) of a seemingly healthy infant, almost always during sleep, sometimes traceable to a chronic oxygen deficiency.” Researchers think that, rather than just being random victims of suffocation or oxygen difficiency, the infant suffer abnormalities in the section of the brain that controls breathing, mood regulation, body temperature, and the arousal from sleep. They believe that these functions go awry in susceptible babies when they are exposed to certain risks, such as sleeping on their belly or smoking around an infant. Mary Willinger, a SIDS researcher at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, hopes that the discovery may help to ease the minds of those who have lost a child to SIDS so that they do not blame themselves and can realize that it was in fact a disease, not neglect on their part. It is probably safe to say, however that a parent should probably still avoid smoking around an infant or having them sleep on their belly.

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