Two new UCLAstudies have identified brain irregularities in children who suffer fromcongenital central hypoventilation syndrome (CCHS), a disease in which childrenstop breathing during sleep, often resulting in their suffocation and death. Thescientists tested how CCHS children's brains react to carbon dioxide and lowoxygen levels in comparison to the brains of healthy children.
Severalunexpected regions in the healthy children's brains responded to the gases —particularly in sites that perceive and react to the sensation ofbreathlessness during suffocation. The same regions in CCHS children's brainsresponded poorly or not at all. This may explain why the children do notstruggle to breathe when their lungs shut down — even after turning blue fromlack of air.
The findingssuggest that the irregular brain mechanisms provoking CCHS may also underliesudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Children afflicted by the two conditionsshare many of the same symptoms and health problems.
RonaldHarper, professor of neurobiology, and Paul Macey, neurobiology postdoctoralresearcher, at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, are available forinterviews.
Journal ofNeurophysiology, Nov. 3
"Hypoventilation reveals central nervoussystem respiratory control mechanisms"
Journal ofApplied Physiology, Nov. 5
"Hypoxia reveals posterior thalamic,cerebellar, midbrain and limbic deficits in congenital central hypoventilationsyndrome"