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Sonic weapon or mass hys­te­ria? The bizarre phys­i­cal symp­toms suf­fered by nearly two dozen U.S. di­plo­matic per­son­nel in

Cuba since 2016—rang­ing from headaches to hear­ing loss—may be the re­sult of con­ver­sion disor­der, the mod­ern term for what used to be called mass hys­te­ria. A sonic or mi­crowave weapon would have caused mea­sur­able brain trauma, but the med­i­cal team that ex­am­ined 21 peo­ple evac­u­ated from Ha­vana found that nearly all had nor­mal brain scans. An anal­y­sis in Van­ity Fair this week traced the ori­gin of the pos­si­ble out­break to a stressed un­der­cover agent who heard un­usual chirp­ing that may have been a lo­cal cricket species. Ru­mors of a sonic weapon quickly spread, and the phys­i­cal symp­toms man­i­fested soon af­ter. “It could cer­tainly all be psy­chogenic,” Columbia Univer­sity neu­rol­o­gist Stan­ley Fahn told Sci­ence.

Mys­tery chirper?

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