America’s Most Common Drug Ingredient Could Be Making You Less Empathetic Read more
— Every week, a quarter of Americans take a painkiller that could be dampening our collective feelings of empathy. In a paper published online this week, scientists claim that acetaminophen, Tylenol’s main ingredient, makes people more likely to think that other people’s pain isn’t a big deal. Researchers from the National Institutes of Health and Ohio State University published their findings in Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience
after studying the effects of the drug on between 80 and about 120 college students across three different experiments. One group of students drank a liquid with 1,000 mg of acetaminophen, while another took a placebo. An hour later, everyone read short stories about situations such as feeling emotional pain from the death of a parent, or physical pain from a knife that had cut through to the bone. The students who drank the acetaminophen assigned lower ratings for perceived pain and distress than the students who didn’t. In the second experiment, participants socialized with other people and then, while alone, watched a game supposedly involving three of the people they had just met. The game showed two people excluding the third from an activity, and asked students to rate how hurt the excluded member was. Again, students who took the painkiller assigned lower pain ratings. Given how common acetaminophen is (it’s present in more than 600 products) it’s worth looking into what the researchers have called its “broader social side effects” and whether other painkillers could have similar results.
Zika Virus May Spread To Europe In Coming Months, WHO Warns: The Zika virus, an infectious disease linked to severe birth defects in babies, may spread into Europe as the weather gets warmer, although the risk is low, health officials said on Wednesday. In its first assessment of the threat Zika poses to the region, the World Health Organization’s European office said the overall risk was small to moderate. It is highest in areas where Aedes mosquitoes thrive, in particular on the island of Madeira and the north-eastern coast of the Black Sea. “There is a risk of spread of Zika virus disease in the European Region and … this risk varies from country to country, said Zsuzsanna Jakab, the WHO’s regional director for Europe. “We call particularly on countries at higher risk to strengthen their national capacities and prioritize the activities that will prevent a large Zika outbreak.” The WHO’s European region covers 53 countries and a population of nearly 900 million. It stretches from the Arctic Ocean in the north to the Mediterranean Sea in the south and from the Atlantic in the west to the Pacific in the east. A large and spreading outbreak of Zika that began in Brazil has caused global alarm. The virus has been linked to thousands of cases of a birth defect known as microcephaly in babies of women who become infected with Zika while pregnant. The WHO has said there is strong scientific consensus that Zika can also cause Guillain-Barre, a rare neurological syndrome that causes temporary paralysis in adults. The WHO’s Geneva headquarters in February declared the Zika outbreak a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC), warning it was spreading “explosively” in the Americas.