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Acetaminophen Appears to Blunt Emotional Response

Research involved two experiments, each enlisting about 80 college students

WEDNESDAY, April 15, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Acetaminophen may do more than simply dull pain -- it may also dull positive and negative emotions, new research indicates. The study was published online April 10 in Psychological Science.

In the first experiment, half of the participants took a 1,000-mg dose of acetaminophen, while the other half took placebo. An hour later, all were shown 40 photographs designed to provoke emotional responses that ranged from positive (pictures of children playing with cute pets) to negative (photos of sickly, underfed children). Participants ranked each photo's emotional content, and then indicated how each image made them feel. Those who took acetaminophen offered more muted responses to both the negative and the positive images.

A follow-up study was structured exactly the same way, but also asked participants to indicate how much of the color blue they saw in each image. The goal was to see whether acetaminophen only affected emotions, or if it also affected the ability to cast accurate judgments overall. The researchers found that acetaminophen had no impact on color assessment -- suggesting that only emotions were affected.

McNeil Consumer Healthcare, the manufacturer of Tylenol, took issue with the findings. In a statement, the company said that the study has "a very small sample size, making it difficult to draw definitive conclusions about the impact of acetaminophen on the response to both positive and negative emotional stimuli."

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