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Mystery of Cuban "health attacks" grows with study of diplomats' brains

Remember the news about a potential “health attack” against American diplomats stationed in Cuba in 2016? Well, something seems to have happened to those diplomats’ brains — it’s just not clear what, exactly.

Flashback: In 2017, dozens of American diplomats who had been working in Havana began reporting unusual symptoms such as persistent headaches, hearing loss and blurred vision.

  • The initial fear was that they had been victims of a “sonic attack,” perhaps using some kind of microwave technology.
  • But other scientists subsequently cast doubt on that possibility, suggesting instead that it might have been a case of mass hysteria.

Whatever happened, it probably isn’t simply psychosomatic, according to a new clinical evaluation of 40 of the affected diplomats. The findings were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

  • MRIs of the diplomats’ brains showed differences between the diplomats’ brains and a control group’s brains, but the study doesn’t reach any conclusions about how those differences came to be.

The bottom line: "All you can say is something happened, which caused their brain to change," Ragini Verma, a professor of radiology at the University of Pennsylvania and one of the study’s authors, told NPR.