Acetaminophen May Blunt Emotional Responses to Images

According to the study below, acetaminophen (Tylenol) may blunt both unpleasant and pleasant emotional feelings associated with stimuli (in the study, the stimuli were images known to elicit affective responses). As far as I know, this effect has not been reported before. It needs replication with an NSAID like ibuprofen in a third arm, I believe.

If it can be replicated: the power was only barely sufficient (at n of about 80) for the effect to be seen, which is a common feature of such studies.



Psychological Science, via online publication, April 10, 2015

Over-the-Counter Relief From Pains and Pleasures Alike: Acetaminophen Blunts Evaluation Sensitivity to Both Negative and Positive Stimuli

Geoffrey R. O. Durso, Andrew Luttrell, and Baldwin M. Way

Acetaminophen, an effective and popular over-the-counter pain reliever (e.g., the active ingredient in Tylenol), has recently been shown to blunt individuals’ reactivity to a range of negative stimuli in addition to physical pain. Because accumulating research has shown that individuals’ reactivity to both negative and positive stimuli can be influenced by a single factor (an idea known as differential susceptibility), we conducted two experiments testing whether acetaminophen blunted individuals’ evaluations of and emotional reactions to both negative and positive images from the International Affective Picture System. Participants who took acetaminophen evaluated unpleasant stimuli less negatively and pleasant stimuli less positively, compared with participants who took a placebo. Participants in the acetaminophen condition also rated both negative and positive stimuli as less emotionally arousing than did participants in the placebo condition (Studies 1 and 2), whereas nonevaluative ratings (extent of color saturation in each image; Study 2) were not affected by drug condition. These findings suggest that acetaminophen has a general blunting effect on individuals’ evaluative and emotional processing, irrespective of negative or positive valence.

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