Scientists: Ecstasy increased social behavior in octopuses

We already know that when humans take MDMA, commonly known as ecstasy, the release of serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin creates feelings of euphoria.

Scientists at Johns Hopkins University wanted to study how serotonin levels in the brain may change while on MDMA, and if the drug can effectively be used to promote social behavior in octopuses, which are naturally nearly entirely antisocial except when mating.

A weird question to some, however Gül Dölen, a neuroscientist from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine posed the question, experimented with this idea alongside colleagues and found "unbelievable" results.

Octopuses are intelligent creatures and are even capable of solving puzzles. After the drug was absorbed, the creatures were placed in a chamber with several compartments, all but one were empty. "These molecular similarities are sufficient to enable MDMA to induce prosocial behaviors in octopuses".

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

To her, the results published in the journal Current Biology show that "serotonin has been encoding social functions for a very, very long time".

"After MDMA, they were essentially hugging", says Dolen, who explains that the octopuses were "really just much more relaxed in posture, and using a lot more of their body to interact with the other octopus".

Prof Dolen said the experiments propose that the brain circuits controlling social conduct in octopuses are present in ordinary conditions, but might be affected by different circumstances.

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THE DANCE drug ecstasy makes people feel loved-up and touchy-feely, and a new study suggests it has the same effect on octopuses.

When undosed, octopuses spent more time with the figurine. This has led to speculations that humans and octopuses could have an evolutionary link.

As for the octopuses - who were hatched in the lab, not caught in the wild - they went through this entire trip just fine.

Specialists have found that changing the social behaviour of octopuses resembles a human, but for unknown reasons, while it is suppressed.

"To me, that means we really need to appreciate that the business end of these things is at the level of the molecule".

To find out, Dolen and her colleague Eric Edsinger from the Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory, placed a pair of octopuses into a tank with three chambers. The octopus's explored the entirety of the tank before deciding to spend more time around the inanimate object.

"If we look at the part of the gene that encodes the binding pocket of the receptor - it's very similar", Edsinger said. However, the MDMA trial group, consisting of four octopuses, showed significantly different behavior.

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