Ecstasy Makes Octopuses More Friendly, Study Shows

23 Septembre, 2018, 03:38 | Auteur: Therese Cote
  • Octopuses given ecstasy by scientists become more friendly and sociable study finds

"They would sit in the corner of the tank and stare at everything".

Seven octopuses received MDMA inside laboratory tanks.

Octopuses have a reputation for being anti-social - except when they're mating - to the extent that scientists who study them have to house them separately so they don't kill and eat each other.

Octopuses, which are often reclusive in nature, are separated from humans by 500 million years of evolution. "We need to be taking full advantage of these compounds to see what they're doing to the brain".

"This is very similar to how humans react to MDMA; they touch each other frequently", she said.

In order to see how the octopus reacts to ecstasy, the octopus was placed in a three-chamber tank, in the water which added the drug: the individual was in the Central room and the rooms on either side of it was either a new subject or a new individual.

Zachary Mainen, a neuroscientist at the Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown in Portugal, points out that some research done decades ago showed that giving extra serotonin to lobsters can alter their social behavior. "How would we know?"

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"For example", Dr. Dölen said, "based exclusively on the mammalian brain, you might be tempted to argue that performing cognitive behaviors requires having a cerebral cortex, because across mammals the bigger the cortex, the more complex the cognitive abilities of the species". But, serious interest in MDMA has grown as researchers have begun discovering promising applications of the drug in treating PTSD and other disorders.

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

Scientists conducted this test to understand the brain mechanism which controls social behavior, publishing their findings in the journal Current Biology. "We needed to check the genome to make sure that the genes that encode the serotonin transporter, which is the protein that MDMA binds to, was still a binding site in the octopus despite the fact that so much evolutionary time had passed", Dölen explains.

The "love drug" seemed to be working on the brains of the invertebrates much in the same way it does to human brains. All four tended to spend more time in the chamber where an octopus was caged than the other two chambers.

Based on what the scientists said, the objective of this demonstration is to see how serotonin can affect social interaction. "I was absolutely shocked that it had this effect", says Judit Pungor, a neuroscientist at the University of OR who studies octopuses but wasn't part of the research team. Not usually touchy feely creatures, after being given MDMA, the octopuses actually started hugging.

"They have this huge complex brain that they've built, that has absolutely no business acting like ours does - but here they show that it does", said Pungor.

"An octopus doesn't have a cortex, and doesn't have a reward circuit", Dölen said.

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