Brain Abnormalities Found in US Embassy Victims in Cuba

White matter changes are most specific finding yet about Havana mystery attacks
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 6, 2017 7:40 AM CST
Doctors See Brain Changes in US Victims of Cuba Attacks
In this Oct. 3, 2017, file photo, tourists ride classic convertible cars near the US Embassy in Havana, Cuba.   (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan)

Doctors treating the US Embassy victims of mysterious, invisible attacks in Cuba have discovered brain abnormalities as they search for clues to explain the hearing, vision, balance, and memory damage, the AP has learned. It's the most specific finding to date about physical damage, showing that whatever it was that harmed the Americans, it led to perceptible changes in their brains. Medical testing has revealed the embassy workers developed changes to the white matter tracts that let different parts of the brain communicate, US officials say. White matter acts like information highways between brain cells. Doctors treating the victims wouldn't speak to the AP, but their findings are expected to be discussed in an article being submitted to JAMA, per US officials.

Loud, mysterious sounds followed by hearing loss and ear-ringing had led investigators to suspect "sonic attacks," but officials are now carefully avoiding that term. The sounds may have been the byproduct of something else that caused damage, three US officials say. Doctors, FBI investigators, and US intelligence agencies have spent months trying to figure out the puzzle in Havana, where the US says 24 US government officials and spouses fell ill in homes and hotels. Doctors still don't know how victims ended up with the white matter changes, nor how those changes may relate to their symptoms. But acoustic waves have never been shown to alter the brain's white matter tracts, says a Columbia University biomedical professor. Cuba has adamantly denied involvement.

(More Cuba stories.)

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