Scientists have discovered what happens when you in the party drug MDMA to an octopus, and say that the animals are surprising comment is “amazing” implications.
A team of researchers in the US decided to have a group of octopuses MDMA, often referred to as ecstasy or Molly to see how it would change their behavior.
After dosed, the sea creatures a lot more social, friendly and interested in others.
It made the animals — normally anti-social creatures — want to collect, cuddle and touch each other in a peculiar way.
Remarkably, they exhibited much the same behavior as the people taking the drug, which produces a feeling of euphoria and a desire for social connection. And that is the surprising part.
As the researchers pointed out, human and octopus families are separated by more than 500 million years of evolution and show different anatomical patterns of organization in the brain. In terms of our nervous system, we could not be more different.
The purpose of the study was for the scientists of the Marine Biological Laboratory in Massachusetts to work as octopuses and people shared genetic links.
The experiment showed that both species had near-identical genetic codes for the carrier then binds to serotonin, the brain chemical that regulates mood and is considered to be a contributor to feelings of well-being and happiness.
“Despite these differences, growing evidence suggests that the neurotransmitter systems are shared by vertebrate and invertebrate species, and in many cases enable overlapping functions,” the scientists wrote in the report of the study published in the journal Current Biology.
In short, MDMA works on a molecular level to make folk feel warm and fuzzy, just as we are.
“The brains of octopuses are more similar to those of snails than humans, but our studies add to evidence that they may exhibit some of the same behaviorss that we can,” said Dr Gül Dölen, a professor at the John Hopkins University, who led the experiments.
“What our studies suggest that certain chemicals in the brain, or neurotransmitters, which the signals between neurons necessary for this social behaviorss are evolutionarily conserved.”
To test how the behavior of the sea animals can change, while under the effects of MDMA, researchers three underwater rooms, which are all connected to each other. One was empty, had a plastic action figure under a cage, and another had a female or male laboratory-reared octopus under a cage.
The octopus was then in a liquid solution of the ecstasy drug, which they absorbed through their gills before they are placed in the water rooms for 30 minutes to gauge their behavior.
In spite of the usually very anti-social creatures, all four spent more time in the room with the cages in octopus than the other two rooms and they were unusually friendly. At high that Molly, as the kids say, the octopi displayed an unusual desire to touch their colleagues.
“They had the tendency to hug the cage and put their mouth parts in the cage, Dr. Dölen said.”This is very similar to how people respond to MDMA; they touch each other often.”
For comparison, a group of five sober folk tend to avoid the room with the cages in octopus.
The study suggests research on octopuses can also help scientists develop medicines in the future as they can be used for drug-testing purposes.
While animal rights advocates have critzicied the study, it has received, with a great interest in the scientific community.
Speaking to Gizmodo, Judit Pungor, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Oregon, who was not involved in the research said the results were completely unexpected.
“This was such an incredible paper, with a totally unexpected and almost unbelievable results,” Dr. Pungor said.
“To think that an animal whose brain evolved completely independently of our own responds behaviorally in the same way that we do that with a drug is absolutely great.”
This story was previously published in the news.com.au.