Results from a new study in Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience reveal that individuals who consume Tylenol (acetaminophen) are less aware of their mistakes, suggesting that Tylenol has negative neurocognitive effects


Cognitive control is constantly needed throughout a person’s day for many tasks, such as operating complex machinery or driving a car. Medications can have a variety of side effects, including effects on the brain and its functions. Researchers have recently discovered that acetaminophen, more commonly known as Tylenol, has negative neurocognitive effects, including a reduction in error evaluation in the brain.

In a new study published in Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, researchers tested to see if acetaminophen can inhibit or interfere with cognitive signals associated with evaluative processing in the brain, using two event-related potentials. An event-related potential is the measured brain response resulting from a specific sensory or cognitive event. The error-related negativity (ERN) is associated with an individual not aware of making an error, while the error-related positivity (Pe) is associated with the individual being aware that they have made an error. The two factors, ERN and Pe were tested to see if acetaminophen has an effect on an individual’s error-related cognition.

Sixty-two students were recruited from The University of British Columbia to participate in this study. Participants in the experimental group consumed 500mg of acetaminophen, while the placebo group consumed identical-looking capsules filled with sugar. Participants were asked to complete a task called “Go or No Go”. If the letter “F” flashed on the screen participants were expected to hit a “go” button, but if the letter “E” flashed on the screen they were instructed not to hit the button. Researchers used EEG electrodes to measure the brain activity of the participants as they performed the cognitive experiment.

Researchers discovered that there was no significant difference in the ERN measured between the acetaminophen and placebo groups, but there was a significant reduction in Pe in the acetaminophen group. These results show that participants who consumed more acetaminophen were less aware of their errors during the “Go or No Go” task, implicating that the drug has a negative impact on the error evaluative process in the brain.

Researchers suggested that there needs to be greater awareness on the neurocognitive consequences of acetaminophen, as cognition control is important and required on a daily basis.




Written By: Mariana Nikolova, BSc

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