(CBS Local) — Get an octopus high on ecstasy and the usually solitary creature becomes a lot more social, says research just published in Current Biology.
And that’s prompting scientists to suggest an evolutionary link with humans – despite being separated by more than 500 million years of evolution.
We already know that when humans take MDMA, commonly known as ecstasy, the release of serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin creates feelings of euphoria. This usually results in people becoming more interested in interacting and connecting with others.
But what about a solitary and asocial create like an octopus?
Scientists recently decided to conduct an experiment, giving octopuses small doses of MDMA. The result was surprising. When placed under the influence of MDMA, the octopuses not only spent more time with other individuals, but even tried to hug a chamber containing another octopus.
“They tended to hug the cage and put their mouth parts on the cage,” says Gül Dölen, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the lead investigator conducting the experiments.. “This is very similar to how humans react to MDMA.”
Scientists say the research may open the door for accurately studying the impact of psychiatric drug therapies in many animals distantly related to people.
“The brains of octopuses are more similar to those of snails than humans, but our studies add to evidence that they can exhibit some of the same behaviors that we can,” Dölen said.