Neurological Study Associates Acetaminophen with Impaired Error-Detection

In what is described as the first study of its kind, researchers from University of British Columbia have reported results of their examination of how acetaminophen may adversely affect the brain response associated with detecting errors. Prior behavioral research by lead author and postdoctoral fellow Dan Randles has found that acetaminophen makes patients less reactive to uncertain situations. "It looks like acetaminophen makes it harder to recognize an error, which may have implications for cognitive control in daily life," Randles commented. "Sometimes you need to interrupt your normal processes or they'll lead to a mistake, like when you're talking to a friend while crossing the street, you should still be ready to react to an erratic driver.” The research is published in the current edition of the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience.

The double blind study involved 2 groups of 30 people who were presented with a target detection task called Go, No Go. Subjects were to press a Go button on seeing the letter F, and refrain from so doing on seeing the letter E when both were rapidly flashed on-screen. One group received a 1,000 mg dose of acetaminophen. EEG readings from both groups showed that the acetaminophen recipients recorded a lower Error Related Positivity (Pe) wave than did the placebo group. Normally, a higher Pe is recorded upon recognition that an error has been made. The test was designed to provide Go stimuli most of the time, meaning that subjects had to interrupt their normal thought process to respond to No Go signals. But in addition to failing at that task, the acetaminophen group also missed more of the routine Go stimuli than did the controls.  Read a news report about the study here. the article abstract may be read here.

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