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Sunday, October 17, 2021

Havana syndrome fits the pattern of a psychosomatic disease – but this does not mean that the symptoms are not real

In early September 2021, a CIA agent was evacuated from Serbia. This is the latest case of “Havana Syndrome” as the world now knows.

Like most people, I first heard of Havana Syndrome in the summer of 2017. It is alleged that Cuba used mysterious weapons to attack the homes and hotel rooms of employees of the U.S. Embassy in Havana. The victim reported various symptoms, including headache, dizziness, hearing loss, fatigue, mental blur, and difficulty concentrating after hearing strange sounds.

Over the next year and a half, many theories were put forward about these symptoms and how weapons might cause them. Although there is a lack of conclusive evidence, many experts believe that some kind of weapon caused these symptoms.

I am an emeritus professor of neurology who studies the inner ear, and my clinical focus is dizziness and hearing loss. When news of these incidents came out, I was very confused. But after reading the patient’s symptom description and test results, I began to suspect that it was caused by some mysterious weapon.

I regularly see patients with the same symptoms as the embassy staff at the Vertigo Clinic at UCLA. Most have psychosomatic symptoms-which means the symptoms are real, but caused by stress or emotional reasons, not external reasons. With some comfort and some treatment to relieve symptoms, they will get better.

The available data on Havana syndrome is closely related to the mass mental illness (often called mass hysteria). So what happened to the so-called Havana syndrome?

Embassy staff in Cuba and other countries reported hearing loud noises, followed by cognitive and hearing problems.
Kateryna Kon/Science Image Library from Getty Images

A mysterious disease

In late December 2016, a health undercover agent in his 30s came to the clinic of the US Embassy in Cuba and complained of headaches, hearing difficulties and severe ear pain. These symptoms are not worrying in themselves, but the agent reported that they developed symptoms after hearing a “beam of voice” that “appears to be directed at his home.”

As news of the supposed attack spread, other people in the embassy community reported similar experiences. A former CIA official in Cuba at the time later pointed out that the first patient “was lobbying, if not coerced, people report symptoms and contact points.”

Patients from the US Embassy were first sent to the otolaryngologist at the University of Miami, and then to the brain specialist in Philadelphia. Doctors use a series of tests to check the hearing, balance and cognitive abilities of embassy patients. They also performed an MRI of the patient’s brain. Of the 21 patients examined, 15 to 18 experienced sleep disturbances and headaches, as well as cognitive, auditory, balance, and visual dysfunction. Despite these symptoms, brain MRI and hearing tests are normal.

A series of articles appeared in the media, and many articles accepted the concept of attack.

Beginning in Cuba, Havana syndrome began to spread globally to the embassies of China, Russia, Germany and Austria, and even to the streets of Washington.

Brown cricket on gravel.
The Associated Press released a recording of Cuban sounds, which biologists identified as a Cuban cricket call.
Gail Hampshire/Flickr, CC

Sonic or microwave weapons?

At first, many experts and some doctors believed that some kind of sonic weapon should be blamed. A 2018 study by the Miami team stated that 19 patients were dizzy due to damage to the inner ear with a sonic weapon.

Due to flaws in the research, this hypothesis has been largely overturned. In fact, there is no evidence that any sonic weapon can selectively damage the brain, and nothing else, and because biologists recorded the so-called weapons The sound is determined to be the Cuban type of cricket.

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Someone also proposed another idea: microwave radiation weapons.

In December 2020, the National Academy of Sciences issued a report that concluded that “pulsed radio frequency energy” may be a possible cause of symptoms in at least some patients, so this hypothesis gained credibility.

If someone is exposed to high-energy microwaves, they may sometimes hear the sound briefly. There is no actual sound, but in the so-called Frey effect, neurons in the human ear or brain are directly stimulated by microwaves, and people may “hear” the noise. However, these effects are completely different from the sounds described by the victims, and the simple fact that the sounds were recorded by several victims eliminates microwaves as a source. Although directed energy weapons do exist, as far as I know, none can explain the symptoms or voices reported by embassy patients.

Despite these stories and theories, there is a problem: no doctor has found the medical cause of these symptoms. After five years of extensive searches, no evidence of weapons was found.

A painting where people take other people to dance uncontrollably.
Mass mental illness-more commonly referred to as mass hysteria-is a well-documented phenomenon in history, as shown in this painting of a medieval dance frenzy.
Pieter Brueghel the Younger / WikimediaCommons

Mass psychogenic disease

Mass psychogenic disease is a situation where people in a group feel uncomfortable because they think they have been exposed to something dangerous-even if they have not actually been exposed. For example, with the popularity of the telephone at the turn of the 20th century, many telephone operators experienced concussion-like symptoms due to “auditory shock.” But despite decades of reports, no studies have confirmed the existence of acoustic shocks.

I believe that Havana syndrome is more likely to be a large-scale mental illness-rather than an energy weapon.

Mass psychogenic diseases usually start in a stressful environment. Sometimes, it starts when people with unrelated diseases think that some mysterious cause is causing their symptoms. This person then spreads this idea to people around them and even other groups, and it is often amplified by overzealous health workers and mass media. Well-documented cases of large-scale mental illness-such as the dancing plague in the Middle Ages-have occurred for centuries and continue to occur regularly throughout the world. The symptoms are real and are the result of brain connections and chemical changes. They can also last for years.

The story of Havana syndrome seems to me like a large-scale case of a textbook mental illness. It started with an undercover agent in Cuba-a very stressed person in my imagination. This person had real symptoms, but blamed them on something mysterious-the strange sound he heard. Then he told his colleagues at the embassy that the idea spread. With the help of the media and the medical community, this idea was solidified and spread all over the world. It checks all boxes.

Interestingly, the December 2020 report of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States concluded that mass psychogenic disease is a reasonable explanation for patient symptoms, especially chronic symptoms, but there is a lack of “patient-level data” to make such a diagnosis. .

For many years, the Cuban government itself has been investigating the so-called attacks. The most detailed report was released on September 13, 2021. It concluded that there was no evidence of directed energy weapons and stated that psychological reasons were the only reason that could not be ruled out.

Although not as sensational as the idea of ​​a new secret weapon, there are historical precedents for large-scale psychogenic diseases that can explain a variety of symptoms, no brain or ear damage, and subsequent spread around the world.

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This article is republished from – The Conversation – Read the – original article.

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