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Welcome to Cuba postcard

Warm Relations

Bloomberg School friends fly to Cuba for discovery

Story by Salma Warshanna-Sparklin • Illustration by Patrick Kirchner

Science diplomat and Nobel laureate Peter Agre and Dean Michael J. Klag will lead the School’s Health Advisory Board members to Cuba February 11–18. Senior officials will share insights into Cuba’s health system and other topics.

Health Indicators


life expectancy in Cuba


life expectancy in the U.S.


health spending per capita in Cuba


health spending per capita in the U.S.

Sources: WHO, World Bank

Soldier holding a stressball

New Battles

They may have left the perils of combat behind, but for far too many U.S. troops, the wounds of war—in body and mind—remain fresh

Story by Jackie Powder • Photography by Lance Cpl. Mike Atchue/U.S. Marine Corps

A May 4 symposium—organized by Epidemiology Professor Michel Ibrahim, MD, and the Johns Hopkins Military and Veterans Health Institute—will explore the new battles that returning soldiers often confront: mental disorders, suicide, substance abuse and others. 

The conference “Service Members and Veterans: Risk Factors and the Continuum of Care” will include participants from military and veterans health systems, civilian researchers and health care providers. 

“The unique medical conditions attendant to military service don’t stop when active duty is over,” says Maj. Gen. (ret.) James Gilman, MD, Institute director.

Read our feature “Invisible Wounds” about research documenting veterans’ traumatic brain injuries.

Illustration of elderly man with cutaway of brain

Pain in the Brain

Neuroscience knows heartbreak from a heart attack

Story by Andrew Myers • Illustration by Mark Holmes

Can heartbreak feel like a heart attack? Does sadness sting like a bee? The similarities between physical and emotional pain have intrigued science for decades. Recently, researchers, including biostatistician Martin Lindquist, have wedded advanced brain scans using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) with powerful computer algorithms to turn the neuroscience of pain on its head.

They can now distinguish physical pain from emotional pain. Earlier fMRI studies had led researchers to surmise that emotional pain “piggybacked” on the neural circuitry of physical pain to create a similar sensation. Lindquist and team, however, show that the two pains do not share the same neural mechanisms. The research could change our understanding of chronic pain and lead to new treatments—and may turn heads at the June 14–18 meeting of the Organization for Human Brain Mapping.

Four Regions, Two Pains

In one example, the researchers show how four regions known to process pain do so using different neural mechanisms for physical and emotional pain.

  1. Secondary somatosensory region: Integrates pain and other physical sensations. 
  2. Dorsal posterior insula: Determines where in the body pain is occurring. 
  3. Anterior insula: Judges the severity of pain and aids pain-based decision making. 
  4. Dorsal anterior cingulate cortex: Processes pain, reward and cognitive reactions to pain such as fear and risk avoidance.

Telltale Neurons

Lindquist used scans like these identical cross sections of the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex to show that different regions process the two types of pain differently.

Brain scan for pain

A. Pain

Brain scan for rejection

B. Rejection

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