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View of Havana, Cuba, taken on April 19, 2018. Photo: Yamil Lage/AFP via Getty Images

A handful of letters in the most recent Journal of the American Medical Association question whether the apparent "sonic attack" against U.S. personnel stationed in Cuba happened — or at least second-guess the level of academic rigor behind that diagnosis.

What they're saying: A total of 10 doctors across across four JAMA letters say that researchers — particularly via a study published in JAMA this past March — gave unduly short shrift to the possibility that embassy employees suffered instead from mass hysteria.

From the letters:

  • "The key is whether the patients had knowledge that others were becoming ill or knew that there was a suspicion that sonic weapons were involved."
  • "Based on the evidence presented thus far, mass psychogenic illness cannot be discounted."
  • "Although diagnostic caution is warranted, functional neurological disorders are common genuine disorders that can affect anyone, including hardworking diplomatic staff."
  • "It is inappropriate to conclude without baseline data that any of the 6 patients presented were truly impaired."

The other side: The authors of the initial JAMA study — the one that supported the idea of a sonic attack — responded, saying they agree more research would be helpful but that some of the criticisms don't hold water.

  • One of the doctors who questioned their findings, for example, has previously identified "a preponderance of female participants" as a characteristic of mass hysteria. (Only about half of the Americans in Cuba were women.)

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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

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Why it matters: On March 12, 2020, the lights went out on college basketball, depriving teams like Baylor (who won our tournament simulation), Dayton, San Diego State and Florida State of perhaps their best chance to win a national championship.