Functional Neurological Disorder & the Cuban US Embassy staff health problems

Functional Neurological Disorder & the Cuban US Embassy staff health problems


Monday, 18 December, 2017

Dr Jon Stone and Dr Alan Carson (both Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences) have been in the news this week, commenting on the ongoing Cuban US Embassy Staff health story. The article is published on 'Newsweek' online and discusses what could be behind the 'Sonic attacks' on American Diplomats in Cuba.

Earlier in 2017 there were news reports of a “sonic attack” on Americans staff working at the US Embassy in Havana, Cuba. 24 staff members were diagnosed with symptoms including hearing loss, dizziness, and nausea. Some of them blamed their condition on strange noises in their homes and hotel rooms. However, following extensive investigations by the FBI and other agencies, no physical evidence of such an attack was found.

Therefore other explanations started to be suggested. Drs Jon Stone and Alan Carson discuss the possibility that the brain is the source of the problem and comment on the idea that "mass hysteria" is a plausible explanation.

Dr Jon Stone states that “to consider this diagnostic possibility [of mass hysteria] properly you have to strip away its negative connotations. The symptoms experienced in outbreaks of ‘mass hysteria’ are genuine and not faked or imaginary... [the term] 'Mass hysteria’ is so laden with negativity, it badly distorts its own case. It suggests shrieking and raving individuals—not hard-working and normal people who mostly get functional disorders in everyday practice.” 

Dr Stone further states that a less stigmatising term to use is “share functional disorder" which he defines as “some disturbance of bodily functioning which conventional diagnostic techniques fail to register.”

Furthermore, Dr Alan Carson states that “we often make an artificial and erroneous divide between psychological and neurological ... but all conditions coming from the brain involve some changes in the function and structure of the brain.”