Take two Tylenol and call me in the morning

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A study involving the neural circuits mediating physical and social pain closely overlap according to a study recently published. The researchers used two double-blind studies to assess the impact of acetaminophen on unpleasant emotion and distress which accompanies unsettling certainties. The participants in the study were given 1000-mg acetaminophen or a placebo and thirty minutes later experienced an unsettling, uncertainty-generated scenario or a control condition. In Study 1 they were asked to write a brief statement about what would happen to their body after dying or the experience of dental pain and then set bail for a prostitute. In Study 2 the participants were shown eerie film clips from a David Lynch movie or from an episode of the Simpsons and then determine punishment for rioters after a hockey game. In both studies the subjects on the placebo suggested significantly harsher punishments than the individuals taking acetaminophen. Acetaminophen appears to have disrupted the pattern of suggesting harsher punishment after exposure to unsettling stimuli. The research team suggested that acetaminophen may have anti-anxiety effects. The study opens the door to studying acetaminophen’s impact on other types of emotional pain.

The study is available in pre-publication release: Randles D et al. The common pain of surrealism and death: Acetaminophen reduces compensatory affirmation following meaning threats> Psychol Sci 2013 Apr 11: (e-pub ahead of print).

Click here to read the study.

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