Bottom Line: Imaging shows differences in the brains of U.S. government personnel who were potentially exposed to unusual audible and sensory phenomena (sound, pressure or vibration) while serving in Cuba when compared with brain images from a group of healthy individuals without such exposure, although the clinical importance of these brain differences is uncertain. A preliminary report published by JAMA in 2018 described neurological signs and symptoms experienced by some of these government workers. In this study, advanced magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain was done for 40 workers and 48 healthy individuals who were demographically similar for comparison to analyze three components (brain volume, microstructural tissue measures, and functional connectivity). Study authors report differences in whole brain white matter volume, regional gray and white matter volumes, cerebellar tissue microstructural integrity, and functional connectivity in the auditory and visuospatial subnetworks of the brain but not in the executive control subnetwork. There also were no significant differences in total whole brain gray matter volume. The findings suggest there may be differences in brain structure in several brain regions and in some functional brain networks. The current study has several limitations including that it cannot determine if the differences among patients are because of individual differences or differences in the level and degree of exposure to the reported sound, pressure or vibrations.
Authors: Ragini Verma, Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, and coauthors
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