"This is very similar to how humans react to MDMA; they touch each other frequently".
Octopuses' social response is curious because humans and octopuses have more than 500 million years of divergent evolution, making us very different creatures indeed.
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. "They just embraced with multiple arms". However, under the influence of ecstasy, researchers note that all four octopuses spent several minutes more in the chamber with the octopus compared to the other two, and they even observed hugging and non-aggressive exploratory behaviors that are typically only seen during mating season. Octopuses are believed to be Earth's first intelligent beings, and the study could kick-start research of linking intelligence with anti-social behavior. Initially, the octopuses loitered more in the tank with the toy with it.
Zachary Mainen, a neuroscientist at the Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown in Portugal, points out that some research done decades ago showed that giving extra serotonin to lobsters can alter their social behavior.
Dölen said that the findings of this study may open doors to for more accurate studies on the impact of psychiatric drug therapies in a variety of animals that are distantly related to people.
He says MDMA, which affects the serotonin system, clearly affects the octopuses' social behavior, but it's not clear to him if it's really inducing greater love for another creature. "How would we know?"
"I have to admit that it was totally trial and error".
This could explain why MDMA has a similar effect on both species.
How were the octopuses drugged?
There are promising signs that further research into the drugs effects can help unravel how social behavior is wired into our brains. "That told us that MDMA would have a place to go in the octopus's brain and suggested it could encode sociality as it does in a human brain", she said.
According to Dolen, the test animals tended to spend most of their time in the chambers that had caged laboratory bred male octopuses.
Based on what the scientists said, the goal of this demonstration is to see how serotonin can affect social interaction.
DOLEN: Whereas after MDMA, they were essentially hugging the flower pot that had the other octopus in it.
JUDIT PUNGOR: That has absolutely no business acting like ours does, but here they show that it does. "But of course what the octopus tells us is this is not universally true, since octopuses don't have a cortex, and yet they can perform fantastic cognitive feats".