Ecstasy Makes Octopuses More Friendly, Study Shows

22 September, 2018, 22:58 | Author: Kara Nash
  • Octopus bimaculoides the species that was used in the experiment

Judit Pungor studies octopuses at the University of Oregon.

MDMA, despite its taboo associations with psychedelia and rave culture - it's classified in the USA as Schedule 1, reserved for illegal drugs with high abuse potential - is being explored as a therapy for military veterans with PTSD. Tests in the 1950s demonstrated that spiders create chaotic webs when drugged with caffeine or mescaline. The central room was empty. In the right wing, a clear flowerpot flipped upside down held another octopus in place.

Octopuses are typically antisocial and treat each other with aggression.

Four male and female octopuses were exposed to MDMA by putting them into a beaker containing a liquefied version of the drug, which is absorbed by the octopuses through their gills.

The research team then logged the time spent in each chamber normally and again after the water in the tank was laced with MDMA. In that occupied chamber, scientists placed a caged sober male.

"It's not just quantitatively more time, but qualitative".

"The brains of octopuses are more similar to those of snails than humans, but our studies add to evidence that they can exhibit some of the same behaviours that we can". However, the MDMA trial group, consisting of four octopuses, showed significantly different behavior.

This was the question that Gül Dölen, assistant professor of neuroscience at Johns Hopkins University, and Eric Edsinger, a research fellow at the University of Chicago's Marine Biological Laboratory set out to answer.

GREENFIELDBOYCE: At least, it seems to. "This is very similar to how humans react to MDMA; they touch each other frequently", said Dölen.


MDMA binds to a receptor for the molecule serotonin, a neurotransmitter that affects our mood. It turned out that the octopus has and people protein gene: the serotonin Transporter binding of a neurotransmitter with neurons, are nearly identical.

Octopus brains are organised totally differently than ours or a rodent's. The animals have just a fraction of the neurons we do.

Ecstasy effect on this protein, therefore the authors tried to check on the octopus effect of the drug, enhancing social interaction in humans and some animals.

Humans and octopuses are separated by over 500 million years of evolution, but they share something in common: both feel good on party drugs.

They also appear to have something in their brains like the serotonin receptor in humans.

The species chosen for the test was Octopus bimaculoides, the only octopus species whose entire genome is sequenced.

"They were very loose", Dölen says. While several invertebrates (e.g., bees, ants, and shrimps) and vertebrates (e.g., fishes, birds, rodents) in the animal kingdom display social characterizes, the octopus only suspends its reclusiveness during mating season - indicating a suppression of social behavior outside the reproductive period. "This is very similar to how humans react to MDMA".

Still, he thinks it's awesome that this drug has somewhat similar behavioral effects. "However, I think that it is not an unreasonable hypothesis". After spending 10 minutes in a low-dose MDMA bath, however, octopuses were far more inclined to spend time with male octopuses next door, even reaching out to "hug" the pot they sat under.

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