Tylenol may mitigate 'social pain-related distress'
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The pain of social rejection may someday be alleviated by over-the-counter pain meds:
The kind of pain that you feel when you get rejected socially feels different from the hurt you feel when you break your leg or scald your hand, but neurologically speaking, they're closely related. As researcher Naomi Eisenberger has shown, circuitry underlying both sorts of pain are found in the anterior cingulate cortex.
But if that's the case, can a drug that dulls pain in the body have a similar effect on one's emotions? A surprising new study suggests that the answer is yes. Psychologist C. Nathan DeWall of the University of Kentucky College of Arts and Sciences Department of Psychology led a team that asked 25 subjects to take either acetaminophen (aka Tylenol) or a placebo for three weeks, and then to lie in a brain scanner and play a video game that was rigged to make them feel uncomfortably ostracized. (Such games typically involve passing an electronic ball back and forth among three players, two of whom are actually a computer program and ignore the test subject after the beginning of the game.)
DeWall's team found that the subjects who had taken the Tylenol showed less activity in the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex. According to the paper, the "findings suggest that at least temporary mitigation of social pain-related distress may be achieved by means of an over-the-counter painkiller that is normally used for physical aches and pains."