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After taking ecstasy, antisocial octopuses get close and do ‘water ballet,’ study finds

A study in the journal Current Biology found that when given the drug ecstasy — also referred to as MDMA or molly — octopuses become less antisocial and start to act in strange ways like doing “water ballet.”
A study in the journal Current Biology found that when given the drug ecstasy — also referred to as MDMA or molly — octopuses become less antisocial and start to act in strange ways like doing “water ballet.” AP

If you’ve ever wondered what an octopus on ecstasy would act like, today is your lucky day.

That’s because a just-released study published in the journal Current Biology examined how the critters would react to a dose of the drug, often referred to as MDMA and molly. Researchers say they discovered that octopuses on the drug react quite like humans, even though we are separated by more than 500 million years of evolution and have different brain structures.

Gül Dölen, a lead author on the study, explained the significance of those findings, according to Gizmodo.

“An octopus doesn’t have a cortex, and doesn’t have a reward circuit,” Dölen told Gizmodo. “And yet it’s able to respond to MDMA and produce the same effects, in an animal with a totally different brain organization.”

She said that finding is surprising because “the brains of octopuses are more similar to those of snails than humans,” Quartz reported.

“What our studies suggest is that certain brain chemicals, or neurotransmitters, that send signals between neurons required for these social behaviors are evolutionarily conserved,” she continued, according to Quartz.

But let’s be honest: You’re probably here for a description of how octopuses act when they’re tripping on ecstasy.

And the study has some answers for you.

To get the octopuses high, researchers exposed the aquatic animals to seawater and ecstasy. They were then put in a three-chamber tank that had an empty room, a room with a toy and another room with a (sober) octopus inside, the study’s authors noted.

At first, the dosage of ecstasy appeared to be too high — and frightened octopuses turned white.

“They really didn’t like it,” Dölen said, according to NPR. “They looked like they were freaked out. They were just taking these postures of super hypervigilance.

“They would sit in the corner of the tank and stare at everything.”

But once the dosage was lowered, scientists say they noticed some really interesting changes in how the octopuses acted.

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