A regulatory pathway model of neuropsychological disruption in Havana syndrome



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Frontiers in Psychiatry


Introduction: In 2016 diplomatic personnel serving in Havana, Cuba, began reporting audible sensory phenomena paired with onset of complex and persistent neurological symptoms consistent with brain injury. The etiology of these Anomalous Health Incidents (AHI) and subsequent symptoms remains unknown. This report investigates putative exposure-symptom pathology by assembling a network model of published bio-behavioral pathways and assessing how dysregulation of such pathways might explain loss of function in these subjects using data available in the published literature. Given similarities in presentation with mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI), we used the latter as a clinically relevant means of evaluating if the neuropsychological profiles observed in Havana Syndrome Havana Syndrome might be explained at least in part by a dysregulation of neurotransmission, neuro-inflammation, or both.

Method: Automated text-mining of > 9,000 publications produced a network consisting of 273 documented regulatory interactions linking 29 neuro-chemical markers with 9 neuropsychological constructs from the Brief Mood Survey, PTSD Checklist, and the Frontal Systems Behavior Scale. Analysis of information flow through this network produced a set of regulatory rules reconciling to within a 6% departure known mechanistic pathways with neuropsychological profiles in N = 6 subjects.

Results: Predicted expression of neuro-chemical markers that jointly satisfy documented pathways and observed symptom profiles display characteristically elevated IL-1B, IL-10, NGF, and norepinephrine levels in the context of depressed BDNF, GDNF, IGF1, and glutamate expression (FDR < 5%). Elevations in CRH and IL-6 were also predicted unanimously across all subjects. Furthermore, simulations of neurological regulatory dynamics reveal subjects do not appear to be "locked in" persistent illness but rather appear to be engaged in a slow recovery trajectory.

Discussion: This computational analysis of measured neuropsychological symptoms in Havana-based diplomats proposes that these AHI symptoms may be supported in part by disruption of known neuroimmune and neurotransmission regulatory mechanisms also associated with mTBI.

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