Octopuses on ecstasy: The party drug leads to eight-armed hugs, Study

NewsScienceWeird News The notoriously antisocial octopus has been made to mingle...after being given ecstasy Ben Gelblum

They specifically examined the octopuses' genes and found that animals and humans have nearly identical genomic codes, particularly for the protein that transports serotonin, which regulates moods and social behaviors.

"Despite anatomical differences between octopus and human brain, we've shown that there are molecular similarities in the serotonin transporter gene", says Gül Dölen of Johns Hopkins University, noting that the gene encodes a transmembrane protein that serves as the primary binding site for MDMA.

Current Biology, a biological sciences journal that publishes original research, released a study this week that showed the usually antisocial invertebrates become quite friendly on low doses of MDMA. They can trick prey to come into their clutches, and Dolen said there is some evidence they also learn by observation and have episodic memory. According to a new study, when it comes to social behaviors in response to ecstasy, octopuses are not so different from humans after all.

The gelatinous invertebrates (animals without backbones) are further notorious for escaping from their tank, eating other animals' food, eluding caretakers and sneaking around.

But most are anti social and avoid interactions, including with other octopi.

One place to look was in the genomics that guide neurotransmitters, the signals that neurons pass between each other to communicate.

STUDY: Octopuses On MDMA Reached Out For A Hug
Aggressive octopuses were given Ecstasy and they started behaving very human-like

A spokesman told HuffPost UK: "These experiments are indefensible, curiosity-driven nonsense that only benefit the experimenters who make a living from them - and from ignoring what we already know about awe-inspiring octopuses".

Dolen and Eric Edsinger, a research fellow at the Marine Biological Laboratory in the U.S., took a closer look at the genomic sequence of Octopus bimaculoides, commonly referred to as the California two-spot octopus.

Specifically, the researchers found octopi and humans had almost identical systems for carrying the feelgood chemical serotonin through the brain.

When people take MDMA, the drug popularly known as ecstasy, a rush of serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin produces feelings of emotional closeness and euphoria, making people more interested than they would normally be in connecting and sharing with other people. One of the tanks was empty, another contained a plastic action figure that could possibly get the octopuses' attention, while another contained a male or female laboratory-bred octopus under a cage.

To test the effects of molly on the octopuses, the scientists put the hand-sized creatures in a beaker filled with seawater and MDMA, which was absorbed through their gills.

Prof Dolen said: "It's not just quantitatively more time, but qualitative. They tended to hug the cage and put their mouth parts on the cage", said Dolen. "This is very similar to how humans react to MDMA; they touch each other frequently". To find out, Dölen and Edsinger tested the octopuses' interest in other octopuses compared to novel objects under normal circumstances.

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