Havana syndrome symptoms are real, but they leave no imprint on the brain

A new government study involved more than 80 victims of Havana syndrome . Scientists note that their results did not reveal any signs of traumatic brain injury, but found “real symptoms” of the mysterious illness, which the team called “very profound” and “disabling,” reports the Daily Mail.

The results of the study show that among the real symptoms of the disease were constant dizziness and problems with balance – these were observed in 28% of embassy employees and other patients examined. However, not the entire scientific community agrees with the results of the new study.

According to a Georgetown neuroscientist who conducted early research into the syndrome for the Pentagon’s Special Operations Command, the new findings risk creating “the false conclusion that there is nothing going on in people’s brains.”

Dr. James Giordano, who teaches neurology at Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, said the new study’s findings are consistent with his own work conducted in 2017-18 for the U.S. Special Operations Command. The team then discovered persistent problems in the functions of the human brain, but not in its structure. In fact, the consequences of the “Havana syndrome” were comparable to the consequences of a “mini-stroke”.

Dr. Giordano believes that Havana syndrome is a disorder of neurological function that results in multiple consequences, including physiological effects that manifest themselves cognitively, motorically, and behaviorally.

The results disprove the theory that the symptoms of Havana syndrome victims are explained by “mass hysteria.” The neurologist compares the findings to a variety of other long-term brain diseases in which physical evidence of damage quickly disappears.

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Dr. Giordano notes that some initial changes may be seen during a transient ischemic attack, but they will subside over time. Cases of “decompression sickness,” or bends, he noted, also manifest as mini-strokes or Havana syndrome, causing long-term impairment of brain function that is not accompanied by visible forms of long-term damage.

In the new study, the team performed MRI scans on 81 of 86 State Department employees and their adult family members who reported “abnormal health incidents.” Next, the scientists compared the MRI results of the study participants with the MRI results of 48 recipients from the control group. The results showed no differences between the MRIs of the study participants and the control group, although the scientists noted that they could not rule out the temporary injury described by Dr. Giordano.

At the same time, 24 patients with “Havana syndrome” showed verifiable signs of a condition known as “persistent postural-perceptual vertigo.” This condition can be caused by inner ear problems or stress, and occurs when the brain’s networks are unable to communicate properly. This is a functional problem that occurs without permanent signs of brain damage.

Co-author of the new study, neuropsychologist Dr. Louis French, describes the condition as a form of “maladaptive response.” In simple terms, the scientist compares this condition to what occurs in patients who slouch to relieve back pain. However, even after the pain is eliminated, these people continue to have problems with posture.

Despite the absence of scarring on MRIs, scientists concluded that victims of Havana syndrome actually have real symptoms and are “going through a difficult time.” The team also insists that symptoms can be profound, disabling and difficult to treat.

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