Medullary serotonin neuron abnormalities in an Australian cohort of sudden infant death syndrome

Fiona M. Bright, Roger W. Byard, Robert Vink, David S. Paterson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


Serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine [5-HT]) neurons in the medulla oblongata project extensively to key autonomic and respiratory nuclei in the brainstem and spinal cord regulating critical homeostatic functions. Multiple abnormalities in markers of 5-HT function in the medulla in sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) have been reported, informing the hypothesis that at least a subset of SIDS cases is caused by deficits in 5-HT function resulting in impaired homeostatic responses to potentially life-threatening events during sleep. To investigate medullary 5-HT defects in SIDS further, we undertook qualitative analysis immunohistochemical assessment of 5-HT neuron expression within the medulla of SIDS infants (n41) and non- SIDS controls (n=28) in an independent cohort from Forensic Science South Australia. Compared with controls SIDS cases had significantly higher 5-HT neuron numbers and density in addition to significantly altered 5-HT neuron morphology. Thus, for the first time, we replicated and corroborated previous observations of a significant abnormality in medullary 5-HT neuron expression in SIDS in a separate independent SIDS cohort. This study further supports the hypothesis that medullary 5-HT defects contribute to the pathogenesis of a subset of SIDS victims and provides additional evidence of a more complex abnormality in 5-HT neuron dysfunction specifically within the different caudal and rostral medullary 5-HT domains.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)864-873
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Neuropathology and Experimental Neurology
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Brain pathology
  • Medulla
  • Neurotransmitter
  • Respiration
  • SIDS
  • Serotonin

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