How Ecstasy Completely Changes The Behaviour Of Octopuses

A new psychedelic study carried out on octopuses of all creatures has yielded some very surprising results indeed. The experiment carried out on the species two-spot octopuses in a Californian lab have shown that when these creatures are administered with the synthetic chemical MDMA also known ecstasy they respond in a much similar way to humans, proving to be very affectionate to one another.

Conducted by two researchers, Eric Edsinger and Gül Dölen, both researchers put these octopuses into a three-chambered tank for the experiment. The point of the study was to find out if animals with a very different nervous system reacted similarly to humans on MDMA, which affects the chemical serotonin levels.

In one section, a colourful toy was immersed, in another, the second octopus, while the octopus on MDMA was in the third section.  What they found was that when the octopus was given the drug they spent much more time interacting with the other octopus in a friendly and exploratory way, rather than in aggressive, way.  The study published in science journal Current Biology described the octopuses as “essentially hugging.”  The octopuses even went as far as hugging the cage and rubbing it with their mouths.

The reaction of these octopuses to the drug is surprising firstly because octopuses are known to be notoriously asocial, generally only becoming physical with each other for the purpose of mating. These octopuses were separated in cages because quite often they can demonstrate homicidal behaviour killing one another.  And secondly because octopuses have a completely different nervous system to vertebrates like humans, for example they house two thirds of their neurons in their arms allowing them to touch and taste without their brains. 

On one earlier experiment, the octopus was given a much larger dose which resulted in a very bad trip.  “They were just taking these postures of super hyper-vigilance,” Gül Dölen told NPR. “They would sit in the corner of the tank and stare at everything.” 

Despite our differences, the results of this experiment suggest that serotonin has the same effect on the social interactions of two very disparate species and therefore may be more widespread in the animal kingdom than we think. Also, the experiment begs the question is it even ethical to give an animal a drug like MDMA?