But as in humans, when the octopuses receive a dose of MDMA, also known as the party drug ecstasy, they begin to become very social indeed. They gave a solitary, asocial octopus species MDMA, aka ecstasy, and watched rapt as the cephalopods tried to hug all up on each other.
Scientists in the U.S. have revealed that octopuses under the influence of ecstasy become highly social.
While dramatically different in structure, after sequencing the genome of the California two-spot octopus (Octopus bimaculoides) past year, researchers found that octopuses and humans are encoded to produce a protein that binds the neurotransmitter serotonin to brain cells in a very similar manner.
The data obtained allowed to conclude that in the body of the octopus there is the plot, which is responsible for the involvement of the serotonergic system in the regulation of social behavior.
A neuropsychopharmacologist at Imperial College London named Professor David Nutt said the results of this study also provide more evidence that a wide range of species experience emotion and empathy: "This just proves that this is not some peculiar human characteristic, it's not even a mammalian characteristic, it's a characteristic of brains". But an octopus on MDMA would get up-close and personal with the new neighbor. So they weren't super-social, but they were more social than they had previously been thought. Researchers measured how long they spent with the other animal, and how long with the action figure.
To test that hypothesis, the research team placed octopuses in an interconnected three-chamber tank meant to test sociability. But, serious interest in MDMA has grown as researchers have begun discovering promising applications of the drug in treating PTSD and other disorders. And those octopuses spent significantly more time, on average 15 minutes, in the room with another male octopus.
How were the octopuses drugged?
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Four male and female octopuses were exposed to MDMA by putting them into a beaker containing a liquefied version of the drug, which is absorbed by the octopuses through their gills.
Octopus brains are organised totally differently than ours or a rodent's.
But on lower doses, one animal "looked like it was doing water ballet", swimming around with outstretched arms. The findings, in the journal Current Biology, stunned other researchers.
"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", said Pungor.
"They were very loose", Dölen says. Zachary Mainen is a neuroscientist at the Champalimaud Center for the Unknown in Portugal.
Octopuses, which are often reclusive in nature, are separated from humans by 500 million years of evolution.