The potential neurological and psychological effects of Tylenol’s active ingredient, acetaminophen, have been a topic of discussion in the medical community since the release of a 2010 study which showed that people taking the compound experienced both reduced social anxiety and diminished activity in a region of the brain called the insula. The insula is thought to play a role in processing emotions, cognitive function, and a variety of other neurological processes. It has long been known that acetaminophen, unlike other pain relievers known as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, works by inhibiting the transmission of pain signals to the brain but it had not previously been thought that the chemical had an impact on the neurological and psychological of those who take it.
Since then, researchers have been attempting to understand the mechanism by which acetaminophen impacts neurological function and the consequences for our psychological disposition. A new preliminary study published in Psychological Science found that acetaminophen dampened the feeling of both positive and negative emotional responses in the brain. The study gave 40 adults roughly as much acetaminophen as is found in two extra-strength Tylenols and 40 others a placebo. They then asked the participants to assign a numerical rating for their emotional responses to a variety of positive and negative images. Those who had taken the acetaminophen recorded a 20 percent lower level of positive feelings and a 10 percent lower level of negative feelings compared to the placebo group.
The door here has been propped open in ways we haven’t recognized… Both as a tool for helping us identify how the brain works, but also for practical purposes. There might be some real consequences to having acetaminophen work in your system,
said social psychologist Steve Heine, who studies the effects of acetaminophen at the University of British Columbia.
Although the sample size was small, this could present new insight into how acetaminophen will be employed to treat various ailments in the future. Until further research is conducted, however, there is no definitive evidence as to the scope of acetaminophen’s impact on neurological processes. Given its high potential for toxicity, acetaminophen should not be used to treat emotional distress and consumers should read drug information to determine which pain reliever will be most effective in treating the desired symptoms.
Read more here – “Tylenol Might Dull Emotional Pain, Too,” (Allison Aubrey, NPR News)