New Research into Sudden Infant Death: Unraveling the Mystery of SIDS

ASIP/AMCHP Webinar Series #2 20 May 2010

In ongoing efforts to support State and Local Maternal and Child Health Programs, the Association of SIDS and Infant Mortality Programs (ASIP) and the Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs (AMCHP) are pleased to co-sponsor a series of quarterly webinars to strengthen SUID, SIDS, Infant Safe Sleep and bereavement services across the U.S.

The second webinar in the series was held on May 20, 2010 from 3:00pm to 4:30pm EST, and featured two internationally recognized experts on the causes of SIDS and SUID.

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Webinar Presentations

Slides are not available for these presentations.


In this section, Webinar sponsors give brief introductions to the organizations they represent.

  • Sandra Frank, Association of SIDS and Infant Mortality Programs (ASIP).
  • Jessica Hawkins, Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs (AMCHP).
  • Rochelle Mayer, SIDS Resource Center
  • Deborah Howe, Program Support Center
  • Suzanne Bronheim, SIDS Program at the National Center for Cultural Competence (NCCC)
  • Mary Adkins, Project IMPACT

The Role of the Postmortem Evaluation in Research Into SIDS

Henry F. Krous, MD, is Professor of Pathology at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, and Director of the San Diego SIDS/SUDC Research Project.

Dr. Krous has been involved in SIDS research during the past 30 years, 20 of which have been in collaboration with Dr. Hannah Kinney. He has served as a consultant to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institute of Child and Human Development in the development of national standards for infant death scene investigation.

Dr. Krous presented "The Role of the Postmortem Evaluation in Research Into SIDS."

Serotonergic Deficiencies in SIDS

Hannah Kinney, MD, is Professor of Pathology at Harvard Medical School, and Associate in Medicine in the Department of Pathology at Children's Hospital in Boston. For more than 20 years, Dr. Kinney's research has been directed at defining the causes of sudden infant death syndrome and her efforts to uncover the mystery behind SIDS have been unyielding.

Dr. Kinney and colleagues are testing the idea that SIDS, or a subset of SIDS, is due to a developmental brainstem defect in autonomic and/or respiratory control during sleep. The ultimate goals of the research are to define brainstem abnormalities in living infants and to suggest ways of preventing the abnormalities from leading to sudden infant death.

Dr. Kinney presented "Serotonergic Deficiencies in SIDS."

Questions & Answers with Dr. Krous and Dr. Kinney

With the limited amount of time available at the end of the formal presentations, moderators reviewed questions submitted by audience members and grouped them into categories for the experts to consider:

On testing:

  • Are there any tests, evidence or procedures to determine if a death was SIDS or not?
  • Have you seen differences in post-mortem findings of SIDS cases between infants who were born premature versus those who were full-term?

On tissues:

  • Given the abundance of available SIDS tissues for research in California, are there any plans for public banking of SIDS-associated tissue?
  • Can parents donate tissues for research?
  • Is tissue-gathering taking place outside of California?

On serotonin and depression:

  • Is it possible that those destined for depression had serotonogic definiciencies but did not suffer the other two of the three risk factors?
  • Do lower levels of serotonin in the baby cause maternal depression?

On investigations and SIDS trendlines:

  • How would you encouraging standardized investigations?
  • What is the impact of inconsistencies in reporting of SIDS/SUID diagnosis?
  • What is the impact of the decrease in numbers of SIDS cases?

On smoking:

  • If there is a connection between maternal smoking and a serotonogic deficiency, why is SIDS not more prevalent when both risk factors are present?


  • Is there any value in obtaining 5HT values in cerebral spinal fluids in SUID cases?
  • What new lines of research are you looking at, and is there anything else that you would like to add for the group?

Webinar Resources

Selected Research by Dr. Hannah Kinney and Dr. Henry Krous

Selected Research by Dr. Hannah Kinney

Selected Research by Dr. Henry F. Krous

Additional Resources