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HomeHealthA recent study reveals minimal brain damage among those with "Havana syndrome."

A recent study reveals minimal brain damage among those with “Havana syndrome.”

Researchers stated on Monday that a battery of sophisticated testing revealed no evidence of brain deterioration or damage among US diplomats and other government workers who experience unexplained health issues that were formerly known as “Havana syndrome.”

The symptoms, which included headaches, balance issues, difficulty thinking and sleeping, and were first reported in Cuba in 2016 and later by hundreds of American personnel in multiple locations, had no explanation according to the nearly five-year study conducted by the National Institutes of Health.

However, it did go counter to some previous research raising the possibility of brain damage in those going through what the State Department now refers to as “anomalous health incidents.”

“These people are going through a very difficult period and have actual symptoms,” said Dr. Leighton Chan, chief of rehabilitation medicine at the National Institute of Health, who assisted in leading the study.

However, when Havana syndrome patients were compared to healthy government employees with similar professions, including those in the same embassy, advanced MRI scans found no appreciable abnormalities in brain volume, structure, or white matter —signs of injury or degeneration. The results were also not statistically different in cognitive and other tests, as reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The fact that the researchers were unable to identify long-term signs on brain scans that are normal following trauma or stroke is encouraging, they added, even though it couldn’t rule out some temporary damage at the time symptoms started.

According to Louis French, a neuropsychologist at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center who treats patients with Havana syndrome and co-author of the paper, this “should be some reassurance for patients.”

About 28% of individuals of Havana syndrome were found to have persistent postural-perceptual dizziness (PPPD), a balance disorder. It is associated with extreme stress and inner-ear issues. It arises when specific brain networks appear unharmed but are unable to communicate effectively. French referred to it as a “maladaptive response,” analogous to how persons who have slouched to relieve back pain may experience post-pain postural issues.

Participants with Havana syndrome showed higher levels of despair, exhaustion, and symptoms of PTSD.

The latest discoveries add to the puzzle of why staff members of the US embassy in Cuba started going to the doctor with complaints of abrupt, strange noises in their ears, resulting in hearing loss and ringing in their ears.

There were early worries that directed energy might have been employed by Russia or another nation to attack Americans. However, U.S. intelligence services reported last year that there was no indication of a foreign opponent being involved and that the majority of instances seemed to have various origins, such as environmental conditions or undetected illnesses.
A few sufferers have claimed that the government downplays their illnesses. Additionally, a scientist warned that the limitations of current medical technology combined with the study design of the NIH may have overlooked certain signs in an editorial published in JAMA on Monday. The scientist advocated for additional research to prepare for the next major health enigma.

The goal of the 2018-started NIH study, which involved over 80 people with Havana syndrome, was not to investigate the possibility that a firearm or other trigger could cause the symptoms of the condition. According to Chan, the results support the conclusions drawn by the intelligence services.

The symptoms “did not result in persistent or detectable pathophysiologic change,” he claimed, if there was a “external phenomenon” causing them.

While the State Department acknowledged that it was studying the NIH results, it stated that making sure impacted workers and their families “are treated with respect and compassion and receive timely access to medical care and all benefits to which they are entitled” was its first concern.

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