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Octopuses are being given ecstasy in the name of science

24 September 2018

Ecstasy has increased social activity octopus, Scientists have studied how ecstasy affects the California two spotted octopus Octopus bimaculoides, which is known for its aggressive behavior in all organisms including their relatives.

The study found that all four spent more time in the area with the other octopus than they had before the drugs.

But would that protein on ecstasy also make octopuses social?

How were the octopuses drugged?

Throughout the experiment, scientists observed the behavior of octopuses in tanks that featured three chambers. The reports say that they also reached out and touched the octopus in what was deemed as "non-aggressive manner".

"My lab has been studying MDMA for a long time, she says, "and we have worked out a lot of neural mechanisms that enable MDMA to have these really, really profound pro-social effects". 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. A close look at the octopus genome showed researchers that a protein involved in this process in humans looked very similar in the sea creatures, suggesting that "pharmacologically, we could predict MDMA should work in octopus in the way it does in humans", study co-author Eric Edsinger, a research fellow at the Marine Biological Laboratory, said in a statement. But under the effects of MDMA the stand-offish animals wanted to hug and spend time together, as opposed to their usual behavior of trying to fight each other to the death. This allowed for comparisons to be made between human and octopus genes.

DOLEN: And what we did is we put that MDMA in a beaker that had a known volume of seawater in it.

Though interactive, they're generally asocial, and temperamental, with unique behavior patterns, like those shown by Otto, who caused blackouts at a German aquarium and Inky, who famously escaped a tank in New Zealand. On one side there was a colorful object and on the other was another octopus, protected inside a small cage.

The creatures spent time with Chewie only during control tests, when they didn't get any drug doses. However, on a lower dose, one octopus appeared to be "doing water ballet", swimming around the tank with tentacles outstretched.

GREENFIELDBOYCE: And they just seemed relaxed. The findings, in the journal Current Biology, stunned other researchers. Judit Pungor studies octopuses at the University of Oregon. Zachary Mainen is a neuroscientist at the Champalimaud Center for the Unknown in Portugal.

For Dölen, who is interested in evolution of social behavior, the octopus offered an interesting test of MDMA and serotonin, because it is separated by 500 million years of evolution from humans, but also has complex behavior.

"I have to admit that it was totally trial and error".

Octopuses are being given ecstasy in the name of science