A few years ago it was found that we share a genome with octopuses, The genetic matches involved certain neurotransmitters—brain chemicals that send signals between neurons—associated with social behaviors. This discovery lead to scientist Gül Dölen and her colleague Eric Edsinger at At Johns Hopkins University, giving California two-spot octopuses the amphetamine MDMA, also known as Ecstasy.
Now, apart from animal testing being something we don’t condone, the results were still, none the less, quite interesting.
California two-spot octopuses are extremely anti social animals, and as they expected, once given the amphetamines, they became far more interested in one another, touching and feeling.
Dölen reported “They tended to hug the cage and put their mouth parts on the cage, this is very similar to how humans react to MDMA; they touch each other frequently.”
Despite science stating humans and cephalopods separated and revolutionized a very long time ago, some parts of our brains that govern social behaviors are the same as theirs. That said, Octopuses are still extremely different to us: They don’t have a cerebral cortex like mammals do, and yet they can still perform amazing feats of cognition.
Dölen’s interest in Octopuses goes way further than just weather or not they react as humans do on ecstasy. They are incredibly smart creatures and even break out of aquarium enclosures.
“It’s a little bit like studying alien intelligence,” Dölen says. “It can potentially tell us a lot about the ‘rules’ for building a nervous system that supports complex cognitive behaviors, without getting bogged down in the incidental organisation of brains.”
Apart from their amazing escape abilities, octopuses are able to regenerate their limbs, and of course, they are masters of camouflage, making them useful for ideas in robotics and tissue engineering.
As stated before, how ethical is it to give an octopus a “party drug”?
According to several bioethicists, they see no problems with it, provided that the animals are removed from the study if they show any signs of stress and treated humanely. Also, not over exposing the animals to the drug to prevent possible addiction.
Dölen stated: “I should also say that octopuses are widely consumed as food, and I can tell you that even for the most invasive manipulation we might do for research, the animals will be better taken care of than they are for when they are used as food.”
Says says Jennifer Blumenthal-Barby, who is a medical ethicist at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas: “The main ethical imperative is to protect the octopuses from the experience of pain and distress,” ecstasy is known as a “feel good” drug, from their behaviour, it appeared that they experienced the drug similarly to how humans experience the drug.”
You can read more about study’s results HERE
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