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Pineal Gland and SIDS

January 31, 1997

I might be dumb, but what IS a pineal gland?

You're not dumb, because even the "experts" aren't sure what it is. What we do know is that it is a structure in the brain, and it may secrete melatonin. That's about it! That's why it would be interesting to find an association with SIDS - not only might it tell us something about the mechanism of SIDS, but we would learn something about the pineal gland AKA pineal body. But maybe the docs can do better...

Rachael Nix

In addition to what Rachael has already answered about the pineal gland and melatonin, a function of the pineal gland is related to regulation of sleep. The possible link to SIDS is related to theories that impaired regulation (control) of sleep is important in understanding risk for SIDS. At this time, the validity of these theories is still unclear but the research in progress is important and may yet yield important information. These theories about sleep regulation are thus very valid even though not all studies have confirmed that the pineal gland is indeed smaller in SIDS.

Carl E. Hunt, M.D.
Toledo/Washington D.C.

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