When it comes to those mysterious Cuban attacks, most are reporting on the fact that American doctors have found brain abnormalities – damage to the white tissue tracts – within several of the victims. That’s a perfectly understandable focus to have, but what cannot be ignored is the summary of a panel of Cuban experts, which points to a very different conclusion.
As first seen by Science, Cuban scientists recently declared that the noises that people are hearing during these attacks is likely to be the sounds of crickets chirping. As for the hearing loss, disorientation, nausea, and other symptoms, they suspect that the 24 American diplomats – and some Canadian envoys – are suffering from a “collective psychogenic disorder”, which in this case means the sudden, near-simultaneous appearance of physical illnesses stemming from mental stress.
We have some problems with this.
Research has demonstrated that psychogenic diseases, those cited by Cuban officials, are probably linked to pre-existing abnormal brain activity. If so, the sudden appearance of so many cases in one location strikes us as fairly unlikely. What are the odds that so many diplomats at the same time experienced the onset of such an abstract disease?
The current consensus is that the diagnosis of a psychogenic disease occurs when the clinical practitioner isn't able to identify a specific cause. This suggests that, much like the American researchers working on the same problem, the Cuban panel aren't sure what's causing the symptoms – although it must be said that they are avoiding attributing them to any "sonic attacks".
As aforementioned, it’s since been announced by American experts that brain damage in some victims is detectable – the type that could cause these symptoms to manifest. Even if it was a “collective psychogenic disorder”, it's extremely unlikely that this can explain the incidences of these brain abnormalities.
As for the crickets – where do we start?