From 2016 to 2018, a number of the US and Canadian diplomats where were stationed at an embassy in Havana, Cuba, complained about symptoms such as headaches, nausea, and even memory loss following the hearing of strange noises. The phenomenon has become known as the Cuban Sonic Attacks.
Havana authorities have denied any wrongdoing so far, but a recent study has suggested that there is some truth to the Cuban Sonic Attacks. The study that concludes that dozens of the diplomats have sustained structural changes to their brains, including 5 percent shrinkage. The study has been published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
It analyzed advanced MRI scans of brains of forty diplomats that had complained about weird symptoms during their service in Havana. These MRI scans were compared to MRI scans to brains of forty-eight people that had similar ages and ethnic backgrounds. The team of researchers at the University of Pennsylvania concluded that the complete white matter volume – parts of the brain central nervous system directly linked with learning – were approximately five percent smaller as compared to those of healthy individuals. Authors have further added that the connectivity differences in the brain’s visuospatial and auditory areas were also noticed between the two groups.
Ragini Verma, author of the study and professor of radiology and neurosurgery at University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, said, ‘Especially in an area called the cerebellum, which is also implicated in the kind of clinical symptoms that most of these patients were demonstrating, which is balance, eye movement, dizziness, etc. These types of changes are completely unknown to us.’ Dr Douglas Smith, part of the analysis, said, ‘We haven’t seen anything like it before, and it’s very curious. What it is, we’re not sure, but there does appear to be something there.’
The findings of the study have once again brought the Cuban Sonic Attack theory back to the limelight. However, the authors have firmly stated that the research had significant limitations and cannot be used for proving any kind of wrongdoing. As it happens, the brain of the diplomats was not scanned before they were sent to Cuba or even when they started complaining about hearing strange noises. Neurologist Jon Stone from the University of Edinburgh says, ‘If you really want to suggest that something fundamentally different happened in Cuba … then the best control group would be 40 individuals with the same symptoms who hadn’t been to Cuba and had no history of head injury.’
The Cuban sonic attacks received a lot of attention when an audio recording was passed to the press back in 2017. The audio recording was made by US personnel and featured a persistent and high-pitched noise. A recent analysis, however, suggests that the noise can be attributed to the Indies short-tailed crickets that inhabit Cuba. However, scientists hold that the audible sound ‘is not known to cause persistent injury to the central nervous system.’
Nonetheless, we might never find out what really happened because scientists agree that as more time passes, it is going to become much more difficult to ascertain what exactly happened in Cuba.