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The Cold Medicine That’s Linked to Cognitive Problems

A common kind of prescription and over-the-counter medication, including some cold medicines, has been linked to cognitive impairment in older adults, finds a new study published in JAMA Neurology.

Shannon Risacher, assistant professor of radiology and imaging sciences at Indiana University School of Medicine and first author of the new paper, and her colleagues analyzed already existing data from 451 people around ages 70-75 who had normal brains. They examined the results of memory tests, MRI brain scans and other neuroimaging data—all while paying particular attention to people who said they took anticholinergic drugs. These include certain over-the-counter drugs, like Benadryl, Tylenol PM and Advil PM, according to the researcher, along with prescribed medications like some antidepressants, motion sickness medications and bladder control drugs. Anticholinergic drugs block the neurotransmitter acetylcholine in the brain.