Scientists Give MDMA to Octopuses & Get “Unbelievable” Results

“I wonder what would happen if you gave an octopus MDMA?” A bizarre question to some, however Gül Dölen, a neuroscientist from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine posed the question, experimented with this idea alongside colleagues and found ‘unbelievable’ results.

When people take MDMA, commonly also known as molly or ecstasy, people report feelings of euphoria. They also find themselves more specifically interested in physically touching things and/or others. Dölen wondered if the drug would have similar effects on animals that it does on humans.

Octopuses are known for their intelligence. They have the ability to unscrew jars to get to a food source and have also been able to navigate mazes. However, octopuses are very antisocial and very rarely do they interact with one another without aggression.

Seven octopuses received MDMA inside laboratory tanks. The octopuses then ingested the MDMA through their gills. Dölen hoped that her experiment would show them whether the drug would enable the animal to behave more socially. In turn, it would show them that the drug wound into the octopuses serotonin transporters.

The researcher then moved the octopuses to a tank that had three different rooms to choose from. One central room, one containing a male octopus, and another that held within it a toy. Before the octopuses received the MDMA, they all avoided the male octopus. However, after their dose of the drug, they spent more time in the room with the male octopus. The reports say that they also reached out and touched the octopus in what was deemed as “non-aggressive manner”.

Reports said that the octopuses “acted like they took ecstasy”. At first, when they had ingested too much of the drug their breathing became erratic and they turned white. However, on a lower dose, one octopus appeared to be “doing water ballet”, swimming around the tank with tentacles outstretched. Another seemed specifically interested in small smells and sounds. Another spent part of the experiment doing flips around the tank.

From this reaction, the scientists took that despite the huge differences between the brains of an octopus and a human, social behavior came naturally built into our DNA.

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. She added that the study of psychedelics and other recreational drugs is no longer deemed to be a “risque topic”.

Dölen explained:

“I hope that this is one of the studies that pushes us in that direction and it’s not one of those weird things that only ravers know anything about”

For more information regarding the study, check out the links below.