Octopuses drugged with ecstasy are more friendlier and social, study says

Ecstasy Makes Octopuses More Social And Touchy: Study

Ecstasy Makes Octopuses More Social And Touchy: Study

A new study has found that when octopuses are intoxicated with MDMA, they act like humans who are high on the same drug.

"Despite anatomical differences between octopus and human brain, we've shown that there are molecular similarities in the serotonin transporter gene", says Gul Dolen of Johns Hopkins University, noting that the gene encodes a transmembrane protein that serves as the primary binding site for MDMA. After taking ecstasy octopuses became more friendly. They also find themselves more specifically interested in physically touching things and/or others.

Octopuses' closest relatives are molluscs such as snails and slugs, and their brains have a host of odd structures that evolved on a completely different trajectory from the human path.

Octopuses are known for their intelligence. But an octopus on MDMA would get up-close and personal with the new neighbor.

"Just because they have the protein", she says, "doesn't mean that when MDMA binds to the protein it's going to do anything like what it does in a human or a mouse".

However, the results of the study can only be confirmed after some more experiments are carried out.

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But at lower doses, Dölen told NPR that the octopus was "essentially hugging" the other one. During the control test where they were placed in the same tanks while sober, they either avoided the other octopuses entirely, or tentatively explored their areas with one tentacle. One central room, one containing a male octopus, and another that held within it a toy.

According to Dolen, the test animals tended to spend most of their time in the chambers that had caged laboratory bred male octopuses. The reports say that they also reached out and touched the octopus in what was deemed as "non-aggressive manner". At first, when they had ingested too much of the drug their breathing became erratic and they turned white. The animals on MDMA were also more playful than usual and were seen to be moving around doing "water acrobatics" or fondling the aquarium bubbler, said Dolen. Another spent part of the experiment doing flips around the tank.

Octopus brains and human brains are structurally very different, with octopuses' neurons distributed throughout their arms and operating seemingly independently. The findings add evidence to the idea that social behavior has a long evolutionary history - and goes back much farther than researchers ever anticipated.

The researchers are now in the process of sequencing the genomes of two other species of octopus, which are closely related to each other but differ in their behaviors.

For more information regarding the study, check out the links below. Nonetheless, an octopus under the influence of MDMA is very likely to invite you into their underwater garden, while singing and dancing to The Beatles.

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