Scientists Find Ecstasy Makes Octopuses 'Gentle and Cuddly'
Would you like to cuddle an octopus? Turns out, all those tentacles really are great for hugging. At least, that is, when the party gets going.
A study published in Current Biology in conjunction with Johns Hopkins University and the Marine Biological Laboratory shows that octopuses (octopi?), when given the party drug MDMA, also known as ecstasy or Molly, become much more “cuddly” than they are when sober.
Of course, one might assume that all creatures are more cuddly when taking ecstasy, since it drastically increases the activity of serotonin and dopamine, but the finding is a little more intriguing for octopuses. Unlike more socially inclined humans, the mighty octopus is a far more solitary creature — definitely not one for raving under strobe lights.
The experiment conducted, Fortune reported, involved placing a “hand-sized” octopus in the center chamber of a three-chambered tank. On one side there was a colorful object and on the other was another octopus, protected inside a small cage.
Fascinatingly, while sober, the octopus spent more time with the object, but when it was given a mild dose with MDMA, it favored the other octopus.
According to NPR, scientists chose a specifically low dose of MDMA, since higher doses gave a profoundly different result. “They really didn't like it. They looked like they were freaked out," Johns Hopkins neuroscientist Gül Dölen told NPR. "They were just taking these postures of super hypervigilance. They would sit in the corner of the tank and stare at everything."
But at lower doses, Dölen told NPR that the octopus was “essentially hugging” the other one.
What does this mean for science (other than octopuses are cuter than we thought)? Judit Pungor, a neuroscientist at the University of Oregon, told NPR, “I was absolutely shocked that it had this effect...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. The fact that they induced this very sort of gentle, cuddly behavior is really pretty fascinating.”
“It just shows us how much we don't know and how much there is out there to understand,” Zachary Mainen, a neuroscientist at the Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown in Portugal, told NPR.
Perhaps we’re not so different from the octopuses after all.
People on Twitter can certainly relate to these cooler, chiller cephalopods.