In a randomized, controlled trial, 85 people took 1,000 milligrams of Tylenol or a placebo. After an hour, researchers showed them several images in random order. The images ranged from extremely pleasant (children laughing in a park with kittens) to neutral (a rolling pin on a table) to extremely unpleasant (an overflowing toilet).

Compared with those who took the placebo, those who took Tylenol were about 20% less likely to rate images as extremely pleasant and 10% less likely to rate them extremely unpleasant.

Previous research has suggested that Tylenol reduces pain by acting on the insula, a part of the brain that, among other functions influences social emotions.

“We don’t want to make any recommendations concerning acetaminophen use,” said the lead author, Geoffrey R.O. Durso, a doctoral student in psychology at Ohio State University. “These are modest differences in a very controlled setting. We recommend following the advice of your doctor with regard to managing pain with Tylenol.”

The study appears online in Psychological Science.
April 20, 2015

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