This is one the stranger things I will likely write this week. Apparently when you give Octopus MDMA, they become more sociable and friendly. This all comes from a study by Eric Edsinger of the Josephine Bay Paul Center for Comparative Molecular Biology and Evolution, Marine Biological Laboratory and Gül Dölen, a neuroscientist at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, published in Current Biology, which outlines their methods, results and more.
The sea-faring invertebrates are normally quite antisocial and can be violent towards each other. Their evolutionary tree splits 500 million years apart from humans, so there should be very little in common in how we react to almost anything.
However as the study notes, “Serotonin is an evolutionarily ancient molecule that has been implicated in regulating both invertebrate and vertebrate social behaviors, raising the possibility that this neurotransmitter’s prosocial functions may be conserved across evolution.”
They weren’t looking to see if they could take Octupus’ to the rave, even if it can make a cool stage design, they wanted to see if how it would impact social behavior.
Even during mating when Octopuses are slightly more social and less aggressive, “the male will just leave his sperm and depart as quickly as possible, because if he sticks around she’ll attack him,” says Dölen via The Guardian.
The Octopuses were placed in three chambers – one empty, one with a plastic action figure and one with another octopus in a cage. They were placed in a beaker of diluted MDMA, which they absorbed through their gills and when high, they spent more time with the caged octopus than without.
They were exposing parts of their body they don’t normally to the caged octopus and hugged the cage. “Some were being very playful, doing water acrobatics or spent time fondling the airstone [aquarium bubbler],” said Dölen.
The scientists say this study indicates that the effects of serotonin to regulate social behaviors is “evolutionarily conserved.”