Acetaminophen is an effective painkiller, but it could also be blocking our brain’s ability to detect errors.

“Past research tells us physical pain and social rejection share a neural process that we experience as distress, and both have been traced to same part of the brain,” says Dan Randles, postdoctoral fellow at the University of Toronto.

Recent research has begun to show exactly how acetaminophen inhibits pain, while behavioral studies suggest it may also inhibit evaluative responses more generally. Further, research has shown that people are less reactive to uncertain situations when under the effect of acetaminophen.

“The core idea of our study is that we don’t fully understand how acetaminophen affects the brain,” Randles says. “While there’s been recent behavioral research on the effects of acetaminophen, we wanted to have a sense of what’s happening neurologically.”

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