Ecstasy is the gateway drug to hugs.
It's 2019; even if you haven't had the 'love buzz', chances are you know someone who has. Suddenly, you can achieve anything, everyone's your friend, and the whole world just deserves a damn hug. The peak of euphoria, all you need is a cuddle.
If a drug can make humans this affectionate, how would it impact animals?
Have you ever wondered what an octopus on MDMA would act like?
Perhaps not, but this is exactly what the neuroscientist Gül Dölen from the John Hopkins School of Medicine set out to research.
MDMA is a drug also called molly or ecstasy. On MDMA, people are often happier and more sociable. Rats and mice have displayed similar effects in Dölen's previous studies, being mammals with a similar brain structure.
However, octopuses are a very different species: for example, their brain is doughnut-shaped. A specialised part of this brain is designated to each of their eight arms. Hence, there was no telling what the results would be.
Bathing In MDMA
The experiment setup involved a room connected to two further chambers. One housed a toy while the other had a trapped male octopus under a plastic basket. The subject octopus (the one being tested) would be placed in the main room, after which the scientists observed its behaviour. This process would be repeated after dunking the octopus in an MDMA pool, causing it to ingest the drug through its gills and, presumably, get high.
While this setup usually works for mice, the researchers were concerned that the octopuses may be too smart for the test and get bored instead, providing inconclusive results. Luckily for them, that wasn't the case.
Without MDMA, both, female and male octopuses would freely explore the chambers, but avoid the male octopuses and move hesitantly when close to it. This isn't surprising, as most octopuses are thought to be solitary animals.
After their ecstasy dip, though, the octopuses appeared relaxed rather than tensed. They spent more time in their counterpart's chamber and even touched the other "exploratively" rather than aggressively. They'd even expose their undersides, the place where the octopus' mouth is. This is thought to be their version of letting one's guard down, something octopuses don't normally do.
The gestures displayed by the octopuses appear similar to the behaviour of humans and rats on the drug. They were friendlier, more open to touch, and less defensive. Maybe we aren't so different from the eight-armed swimmers after all?
Of course, one study isn't enough to prove these similarities definitely exist. Dölen herself stated that the sample was too small to generalise. However, the surprising findings pave the way for further research and could help us understand our own brains better as well.
Note: Binge Daily does not promote or condone the usage of MDMA or animal testing.