Poster D134, Monday, March 27, 8:00 – 10:00 am, Pacific Concourse
The Brain on Tylenol: Acetaminophen Amplifies Disengagement from External Stimuli During Internally Directed Thought
Sumeet Mutti1, Daniel Randles2, Diana Pricop1, Julia W. Y. Kam3, Steven J. Heine1, Todd C. Handy1; 1University of British Columbia, 2University of Toronto, 3UC Berkeley
Long known as an analgesic, acetaminophen (or Tylenol) has recently been shown to not just reduce social pain, but lessen reactivity towards affectively salient stimuli and attenuate error evaluation processing in cortex. Notably, these latter two effects directly parallel the impact of mind wandering on affective and error-related processing, raising the possibility that acetaminophen may facilitate neurocognitive disengagement from external stimulus inputs during periods of mind wandering. Here we tested this hypothesis in a double blind study that had participants ingest either 1000 mg of acetaminophen (N = 20) or a sugar placebo (N = 20) and then perform a modified Sustained Attention to Respond Task (SART) while their EEG responses to targets were recorded. During the task, participants were prompted at random intervals to report whether their thoughts were on task or mind wandering. We found that the mean amplitude of P300 event-related potential (ERP) component evoked by targets was attenuated in the time interval immediately preceding mind wandering vs. on-task attentional reports, and further, that the magnitude of this attenuation was significantly greater in the acetaminophen vs. placebo group. No between-group difference was found in the overall reported rates of mind wandering. Our findings suggest that acetaminophen has a direct, catalytic effect on the basic mechanism by which we neurocognitively disengage from the external environment during periods of internally directed thought.
Topic Area: THINKING: Other