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A remedy for existential angst

If thinking about your own death freaks you out, there may be over-the-counter solution. A new study shows that the main ingredient in Tylenol, acetaminophen, can help calm existential dread in the same way it reduces the physical pain of a headache. To get volunteers worried about their own mortality, University of British Columbia researchers asked them to watch scenes from the surreal David Lynch film Rabbits, or to write several paragraphs about what they thought would happen to their bodies when they died. Those who were given Tylenol before engaging in those depressing acts were significantly less upset by them than those who were given a placebo. “We think that Tylenol is blocking existential unease in the same way it prevents pain, because a similar neurological process is responsible for both types of distress,” study author Daniel Randles tells LiveScience.com. Previous studies have shown that a region of the brain called the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex processes both physical pain and certain kinds of psychological pain.

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