The research from the University of Toronto and University of British Columbia in Canada is the first neurological study to look at how acetaminophen could be inhibiting the brain response associated with making errors.

Recent research has begun to show how acetaminophen inhibits pain, while behavioural studies suggest it may also inhibit evaluative responses more generally.

Previous research has also found that people are less reactive to uncertain situations when under the effect of acetaminophen.
For the study, two groups of 30 participants were given a target-detection task called the Go or No Go.

Participants were asked to hit a Go button every time the letter F flashed on a screen but refrain from hitting the button if an E flashed on the screen.

Electroencephalogram (EEG) was used to measure electrical activity in the brain of the participants. The researchers were looking for a particular wave called Error Related Negativity (ERN) and Error Related Positivity (Pe).

Essentially what happens is that when people are hooked up to an EEG and make an error in the task there is a robust increase in ERN and Pe.

One group, which was given 1,000 milligrammes of acetaminophen - the equivalent of a normal maximum dose - showed a smaller Pe when making mistakes than those who did not receive a dose, suggesting that acetaminophen inhibits our conscious awareness of the error.

Cognitive control is an important neurological function because people are constantly doing cognitive tasks that flow automatically like reading, walking or talking.

The research was published in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience.

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