This antisocial octopus was given MDMA and it became friendlier

24 September, 2018, 05:26 | Author: Kara Nash
  • Octopuses on MDMA turn into relaxed and friendly creatures

When humans take MDMA, otherwise known as ecstasy, the release of serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin produce feelings of emotional closeness which usually results in people being more interested in interacting and connecting with others. However, the MDMA trial group, consisting of four octopuses, showed significantly different behavior.

Scientists from Johns Hopkins University and the Marine Biological Laboratory on Cape Cod found that, just like humans, notoriously reserved (and sometimes violent) octopuses act friendly and social when they're exposed to MDMA, otherwise known as ecstasy or Molly.

The team chose to perform the study on Octopus bimaculoides due to the fact it is possible to breed and study their behaviour in a lab, however it is also the only octopus to have its genome fully sequenced. That's prompting scientists to suggest an evolutionary link with humans - despite being separated by more than 500 million years of evolution. Octopuses can open jars, pick the World Cup winners and make escape attempts.

According to NPR, which spoke to researchers who worked on the product, the octopuses were first given a high dose of MDMA to test whether they could experience any effects at all. Octopuses' closest relatives are creatures like snails and slugs, and their brains have a host of odd structures that evolved on a completely different trajectory from the human path. Any given octopus is unlikely to seek out companionship from other octopuses, only coming together when it is time to mate. The octopus's explored the entirety of the tank before deciding to spend more time around the inanimate object.


What does this mean for science (other than octopuses are cuter than we thought)? "But when they had MDMA, they had this very relaxed posture", the researcher added. Initially, the octopuses loitered more in the tank with the toy with it.

There are promising signs that further research into the drugs effects can help unravel how social behavior is wired into our brains. For the next 30 minutes the test animals were placed inside the experimental chambers.

In 2008, Otto the octopus - a resident at the Sea Star Aquarium in Coburg, Germany - caused havoc after learning he could turn off the light in his aquarium by climbing to the rim of his tank and squirting a jet of water at it. Octopuses are believed to be Earth's first intelligent beings, and the study could kick-start research of linking intelligence with anti-social behavior. When "high", the octopuses went straight to the caged solitary male. "This is very similar to how humans react to MDMA; they touch each other frequently". The findings, in the journal Current Biology, stunned other researchers.

This led the researchers to conclude that the effects of MDMA on serotonin in the brain work similarly in octopuses and humans by encouraging more social behaviors.

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