Published: Sat, September 22, 2018
Medical | By

Octopus’s display Prosocial Behavior under the Influence of MDMA

Octopus’s display Prosocial Behavior under the Influence of MDMA

MDMA (methylenedioxy-methylamphetamine), also known as ecstasy, is a powerful mood-altering drug which floods the human brain with a chemical called serotonin. The research could help us better understand that our brain and social behavior are influenced by more basic processes than we imagined.

Gul Dolen, the assistant professor of neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the lead investigator of the experiment stated: "The brains of octopuses are more similar to those of snails than humans, but our studies add to evidence that they can exhibit some of the same behaviours that we can".

Typically, octopuses are non-social creatures that tend to avoid or shy away from other creatures including other octopuses unless it is mating season. A new study on how an octopus given Ecstasy acts offers clues about how the drug can be used in broader settings.

But as in humans, when the octopuses receive a dose of MDMA, also known as the party drug ecstasy, they begin to become very social indeed.

A complete summary of these experiments has been published in the journal Current Biology.

Octopuses are nearly entirely antisocial, except when they're mating, and scientists who study them have to house them separately so they don't kill or eat each other. They wanted to examine whether the chemistry behind human social behaviours also exists in octopuses - creatures that are socially very different to humans.

Scientists in the USA have revealed that octopuses under the influence of ecstasy become highly social. They spend more time around the octopus in the cage, even spreading their limbs to symbolize "an eight-armed hug".

Researchers Eric Edsinger, Ph.D., and Gül Dölen, M.D., Ph.D. had a closer look at the genomic sequence of the California two-spot octopus and found that they and humans have almost identical genomic codes for the transporter that binds serotonin, a mood regulator, to the neuron's membrane.


One octopus was doing back flips, according to Dr Dolen, who said that some of the behaviours were so unusual the research team couldn't quantify them. Dolen said, "Octopuses will suspend their antisocial behaviour for mating, for example". For the next 30 minutes the test animals were placed inside the experimental chambers.

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

GREENFIELDBOYCE: And it shows that some of our biological systems for social behavior must go way, way back because humans and octopuses are separated by more than 500 million years of evolution.

Scientists gave several female and male octopuses a bath laced with the drug.

"It's not just quantitatively more time, but qualitative", Dölen said in a statement.

"They were very loose", Dölen says.

At first, when they received a little too much MDMA, they breathed erratically and turned white.

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