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New details about the mysterious brain injury of a diplomat related to "acoustic attacks"

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(CNN) – Doctors shared this Thursday details of what happened to the brain of a diplomat who could be the victim of so-called acoustic attacks that have affected dozens of people in Cuba and China.

The researchers revealed the results of an independent analysis about the brain of Mark Lenzi, an American diplomat who had his position in Guangzhou, China, when in 2017 he began to experience unexplained symptoms such as headache, difficulty reading, irritability, as well as memory and sleep problems.

The MRI done to Lenzi produced several results: 20 regions of his brain had "abnormally low" volumes, including those involved in memory, emotional regulation and motor skills that can correlate with Lenzi's symptoms, doctors said. Of the 107 regions they observed, they also found three that had larger volumes. They said that parts of the brain with low volume may reflect a brain injury, while those with larger size could be evidence that other parts of their brain have compensated.

The analyzes, however, do not reveal the cause. That remains a mystery.

"There is no weapon to prove the crime," said Dr. Edward Soll, medical director of The Concussion Group and one of the radiologists who evaluated Lenzi's brain scans. Still, looking at the compendium of evidence, "it would be difficult not to conclude that there was serious damage to this gentleman's brain," he added.

The "acoustic attacks", as they are called, were initially known to affect US government personnel in Havana, Cuba, as of the end of 2016. The State Department announced last year that it was also investigating similar events in China. , expanding a health alert there. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo described the medical details in both places places like "very similar and totally consistent" with each other.

A study published in July He also discovered brain variations among 40 American staff members affected by the events in Cuba when compared to 48 healthy adults. The differences included some measures of volume and links between different regions of the brain. However, the authors of the previous research pointed out that the clinical importance of the findings was uncertain, and they had no previous MRI of the patients to know how their brain was before the incident. In addition, these patterns did not fit a clear picture of a specific disorder, according to the researchers.

"It certainly does not resemble images of a traumatic brain injury or concussion, although they do have clinical symptoms similar to those of a concussion," he told CNN previouslye about Cuban patients Ragini Verma, one of the authors of the study and professor of radiology and neurosurgery at the Perelman School of Medicine of the University of Pennsylvania.

"They reveal to us that something happened, and we have to look further, and that's it," Verma said.

In previous occasions, Cuban patients described having heard "intensely loud" sounds coming from a specific direction, which they described as "buzzing", "grinding metal" and "penetrating shrieks."

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However, experts said it is unlikely that the noise itself caused the symptoms.

"Actually, we don't believe the problem was the audible sound," Dr. Douglas Smith, director of the Center for Brain Injury and Repair Center at the University of Pennsylvania, told CNN previously. "We believe that the audible sound was a consequence of the exposure."

New Hampshire Senator Jeanne Shaheen said in a statement on Thursday that Lenzi's findings underscore the importance of her efforts to include a provision in the latest bill on congressional expenditures to ensure that affected government workers in places like Cuba and China have access to long-term medical care.

"These injuries and subsequent treatment by the United States government have been a living nightmare for these dedicated public servants and their families," Shaheen said. "Our diplomats, staff and their families in China and Cuba experienced disconcerting injuries while serving our country, and they must be sure that our government will support them as they continue their path to recovery," he completed.

(tagsToTranslate) acoustic attack (t) China (t) Cuba (t) Havana

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