Octopuses on MDMA turn into relaxed and friendly creatures

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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.

Gul Dolen, assistant professor of neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the lead investigator conducting the experiments, said: "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". All four tended to spend more time in the chamber where an octopus was caged than the other two chambers.

"I wonder what would happen if you gave an octopus MDMA?"

"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".

Writing in the journal Current Biology, researchers at Johns Hopkins University in the U.S. say the drug affected the creatures in a similar way to humans.

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Research shows that even though these animals were separated from humans 500 million years ago, octopuses experience similar effects of the drug.

So she and a colleague named Eric Edsinger gave the drug to octopuses to see if it would make the animals more social.

As a result of testing of the drug revealed the similarity of the biochemical basis of this marine life and humans, which is very unusual for these non-native organisms.

But would that protein on ecstasy also make octopuses social?

When they were all sober, they and avoided the solitary male in the chamber and any contact with each other as well. And except when mating, they are notably unfriendly to other octopuses.

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The researchers concluded from the experiment that, just like humans, MDMA enhanced the acute prosocial behaviors in California two-spot octopuses.

Then, they were exposed to a liquefied version of MDMA, which they absorbed through their gills, and placed in the chambers again. Initially, the octopuses loitered more in the tank with the toy with it. That said, after a dose of MDMA, scientists found that octopuses become more "touchy-feely" and their antisocial behavior seemingly disappears once serotonin floods the brain, which is increased by ingesting MDMA.

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

In 2008, Otto the octopus - a resident at the Sea Star Aquarium in Coburg, Germany - caused havoc after learning he could turn off the light in his aquarium by climbing to the rim of his tank and squirting a jet of water at it. On one side there was a colorful object and on the other was another octopus, protected inside a small cage. Prof de Wit said that would help rule out the idea that they were friendlier the second time because they'd got used to the tank, or the other octopus.

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