The physiological determinants of sudden infant death syndrome

Respir Physiol Neurobiol. 2013 Nov 1;189(2):288-300. doi: 10.1016/j.resp.2013.05.032. Epub 2013 Jun 2.


It is well-established that environmental and biological risk factors contribute to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). There is also growing consensus that SIDS requires the intersection of multiple risk factors that result in the failure of an infant to overcome cardio-respiratory challenges. Thus, the critical next steps in understanding SIDS are to unravel the physiological determinants that actually cause the sudden death, to synthesize how these determinants are affected by the known risk factors, and to develop novel ideas for SIDS prevention. In this review, we will examine current and emerging perspectives related to cardio-respiratory dysfunctions in SIDS. Specifically, we will review: (1) the role of the preBötzinger complex (preBötC) as a multi-functional network that is critically involved in the failure to adequately respond to hypoxic and hypercapnic challenges; (2) the potential involvement of the preBötC in the gender and age distributions that are characteristic for SIDS; (3) the link between SIDS and prematurity; and (4) the potential relationship between SIDS, auditory function, and central chemosensitivity. Each section underscores the importance of marrying the epidemiological and pathological data to experimental data in order to understand the physiological determinants of this syndrome. We hope that a better understanding will lead to novel ways to reduce the risk to succumb to SIDS.

Keywords: Arousal; Gasping; Gender; Hypoxia; Sigh; Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Arousal / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Premature / physiology*
  • Risk Factors
  • Sudden Infant Death / diagnosis*