A Caltech Library Service

Can the Microwave Auditory Effect Be “Weaponized”?

Foster, Kenneth R. and Garrett, David C. and Ziskin, Marvin C. (2021) Can the Microwave Auditory Effect Be “Weaponized”? Frontiers in Public Health, 9 . Art. No. 788613. ISSN 2296-2565. PMCID PMC8733248. doi:10.3389/fpubh.2021.788613.

[img] PDF - Published Version
Creative Commons Attribution.


Use this Persistent URL to link to this item:


Brief but intense pulses of radiofrequency (RF) energy can elicit auditory sensations when absorbed in the head of an individual, an effect known as the microwave auditory or “Frey effect” after the first investigator to examine the phenomenon (1). The effect is known to arise from thermoacoustically (TA)-induced acoustic waves in the head (2). Lin has proposed that the Frey effect may be linked to unexplained health problems reported by U.S. officers in Cuba and elsewhere, the so-called Havana syndrome (3). The failure to detect microwave exposure to the affected individuals lends no support to this hypothesis, and we do not speculate about the cause of the symptoms. The question remains: whether the auditory effect can be “weaponized,” i.e., used to harass or harm an individual. For reasons of effect size and practicality this appears unlikely, but the lack of publicly available information about existing high power RF technology and uncertainties about thresholds for adverse effects does not allow full resolution of the matter.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription CentralArticle
Garrett, David C.0000-0002-9747-8494
Additional Information:© 2021 Foster, Garrett and Ziskin. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms. Received: 22 October 2021; Accepted: 30 November 2021; Published: 23 December 2021. The authors thank Robert C. Weller for providing information about his exposure to a radar installation and his experience in perception of microwave-induced sounds. Author Contributions. All authors listed have made a substantial, direct, and intellectual contribution to the work and approved it for publication. Conflict of Interest. KF and MZ have received minor research funding from an industry group (Mobile; Wireless Forum) for unrelated work. The remaining author declares that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.
Subject Keywords:thermoacoustic sound generation, Frey effect, pulsed microwave energy, Havana syndrome, thresholds for adverse effects
PubMed Central ID:PMC8733248
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20220120-890644000
Persistent URL:
Official Citation:Foster KR, Garrett DC and Ziskin MC (2021) Can the Microwave Auditory Effect Be “Weaponized”? Front. Public Health 9:788613. doi: 10.3389/fpubh.2021.788613
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:113032
Deposited By: George Porter
Deposited On:20 Jan 2022 22:26
Last Modified:20 Jan 2022 22:26

Repository Staff Only: item control page