Study of the human hypoglossal nucleus: normal development and morpho-functional alterations in sudden unexplained late fetal and infant death

Brain Dev. 2010 Apr;32(4):275-84. doi: 10.1016/j.braindev.2009.05.006. Epub 2009 Jun 23.


This study evaluated the development and the involvement in sudden perinatal and infant death of the medullary hypoglossal nucleus, a nucleus that, besides to coordinate swallowing, chewing and vocalization, takes part in inspiration. Through histological, morphometrical and immunohistochemical methods in 65 cases of perinatal and infant victims (29 stillbirths, 7 newborns and 29 infants), who died of both unknown and known cause, the authors observed developmental anomalies of the hypoglossal nucleus (HGN) in high percentage of sudden unexplained fetal and infant deaths. In particular, HGN hypoplasia, hyperplasia, positive expression of somatostatin and absence of interneurons were frequently found particularly in infant deaths, with a significant correlation with maternal smoking.

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Fetal Death* / pathology
  • Fetal Death* / physiopathology
  • Gestational Age
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Medulla Oblongata* / anatomy & histology
  • Medulla Oblongata* / pathology
  • Medulla Oblongata* / physiology
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / pathology
  • Respiratory Center* / anatomy & histology
  • Respiratory Center* / pathology
  • Respiratory Center* / physiology
  • Smoking / adverse effects
  • Sudden Infant Death* / pathology