Octopuses get very friendly when they're on MDMA, study reveals

Octopuses get very friendly when they're on MDMA, study reveals

At the beginning, they used a higher dose than they should have and the sea creatures got scared, starting to undergo color changes. 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. However, when it comes to humans and octopuses, the latter's brain is completely different from the former. We tend to enjoy our solitude and inhibitions, occasionally shedding them in pursuit of the opposite gender.

Octopus and human lineages are separated by more than 500 million years of evolution, and yet their genomic analyses showed that O. bimaculoides has the serotonin transporter gene known to serve as the principle binding site of MDMA. They floated around, they wrapped their arms around the chamber, and they interacted with the other octopus in a much more fluid and generous way.

The research, which was led by Dr. Gül Dölen of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, is groundbreaking and also pretty odd. Prior to the experiment, they had to perform a check on the California two-spot octopus that they selected for the study.

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DOLEN: First of all, they spent significantly more time in the side of the tank, the chamber, that had the other octopus in it. Dolen says, this means that the normal social behaviours are suppressed and these become uninhibited when MDMA is administered.

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When they were all sober, they and avoided the solitary male in the chamber and any contact with each other as well. "But of course what the octopus tells us is this is not universally true, since octopuses don't have a cortex, and yet they can perform awesome cognitive feats". "We need to be taking full advantage of these compounds to see what they're doing to the brain".

The study in octopuses helps give scientists a better understanding of how the neurological mechanisms regulating social behavior evolved.

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"I was absolutely shocked that it had this effect", says Judit Pungor, a neuroscientist at the University of OR who studies octopuses but wasn't part of the research team.

According to NPR, scientists chose a specifically low dose of MDMA, since higher doses gave a profoundly different result.

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