5 Times Scientists Gave Animals Drugs (and What They Learned)

[♪ INTRO] “Scientists get spiders high on weed!” “Watch what happened when a scientist gave
this octopus ecstasy!” Over the years, you might have
seen some headlines like these. This kind of research makes for great
click-bait-ey articles, because it creates a ridiculous picture in our minds, and
humans love to watch animals being silly. After all, the whole point of the internet
is to spread funny cat videos, right? But scientists don’t do these experiments
just to have good stories to tell at parties. They do them to learn more about
how the brain and nervous system works, and to study the effects of these drugs
in a safer, more controlled way. So, here are five times scientists gave animals
drugs, and what they actually learned. Normally, octopuses don’t really like to
hang out with friends. Aside from a brief get together for mating,
they’re pretty much loners. So to learn more about their social behavior, scientists recently decided to see
what happened if they gave them ecstasy. Yes, that ecstacy. The scientific term for ecstasy is MDMA, which
stands for a really long chemical name that we’ll just put up on the screen for you. It’s both a stimulant and a hallucinogen, and it’s
also known to make people more empathetic. It does this by interfering with
the neurotransmitter serotonin, which, among other things,
regulates specific social behaviors. Ecstasy causes an excess of serotonin to build-up
in the gaps, or the synapses, between brain cells. Ecstasy’s effects on social behaviors
are well-documented in humans, but the researchers wanted to see
if this happened in octopuses, too. In the experiment, published
in 2018 in Current Biology, researchers rounded up some
young California Two-Spot Octopuses. They gave some MDMA and others a placebo. Then, they gave them a choice: They could
either hang out with a Star Wars figurine, Chewbacca or a Stormtrooper, for the record,
or hang with another octopus. The animals high on ecstasy chose to hang
out with a fellow octopus more often, even hugging the enclosure their new friend was in. Meanwhile, control octopuses usually
wanted to play solo with Chewie. When the researchers took a close look at
the octopus genome, they found that octopuses and humans have a very similar gene for the
serotonin transporter protein, which helps regulate the amount
of serotonin in the synapses. That’s most likely why the ecstasy had a similar
effect on the octopuses as it does on humans. Because the common ancestors of octopuses
and humans went their separate ways more than 500 million years ago, this suggests serotonin
has been playing a role in social behaviors for a very long time. Honey bees already seem pretty buzzed as they
zip from flower to flower. But a few years ago, scientists decided to
give them some cocaine. They were trying to untangle why cocaine seems
to do different things in humans and insects. In humans, the drug causes a buildup
of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which plays a big role in the reward pathway. This pathway is a network in your brain that
makes you feel good when you do something necessary for survival and reproduction. So having excess dopamine floating around makes
you feel really, really good, but also too good. Cocaine makes people euphoric, energetic,
hypersensitive, and super enthusiastic. But because it tricks the reward pathway,
it makes them want to take the drug again and again, leading to addiction. In insects, though, things
seemed to be pretty different. See, cocaine is actually made by the coca
plant to prevent insects from eating it. It’s a sort of natural insecticide, where
caterpillars eating cocaine-laced leaves lose motor control and stumble off the plant. For a while, most scientists assumed that
the rewarding effect cocaine has on humans just didn’t happen in insects. But in 2009, in a study published in
the Journal of Experimental Biology, researchers decided to officially test
that assumption using honey bees. Certain honey bees tell their hive mates the
location and quality of flower resources by dancing. And when the researchers gave the bees low
doses of cocaine, they over-exaggerated the quality of the resources they had found. Kind of like how a person on the drug would
get, like, really enthusiastic. When the bees were cut off from the cocaine,
they even went through withdrawal symptoms, performing poorly on memory and learning tasks. Yes, we can give memory and learning tasks
to bees. That suggested our ideas about how cocaine
affects insects might have been wrong. At least based on this experiment, it seemed
like those rewarding effects happened after all. Still, it’s not like coca plants
make insects addicted, so there had to be
something else going on, too. The scientists suggested that the motor effects
cocaine causes are still important in driving insects away, and that the rewarding effects
in honey bees are kind of a side effect. Then, if an insect does come back for more leaves, it likely gets so much cocaine
that it overdoses and dies, which is why all of the coca plants in
the world haven’t already been devoured. At some point, you might have heard of somebody
trying to “drown their sorrows”. This is the idea of someone trying to get
over something disappointing by drinking alcohol. Among other things, alcohol causes the release
of our old friend dopamine, and since that causes happy feelings, that presumably helps
someone feel better about their day. The thing is, though, the desire to drown
your sorrows might not just be a social convention, at least, according to one 2012 experiment
with fruit flies. In the experiment, which was
published in the journal Science, scientists divided 24 male
fruit flies into two groups. Half were put into vials full of females who
wanted to mate. And the males seemed happy to oblige. The other half were put into separate vials
with a female fly that had just mated and was not interested in mating again. These males were rejected. Then, the scientists offered both groups of
males some mashed food mixed with alcohol. Like in humans, alcohol activates the reward
pathway in fruit flies, so the scientists expected all of the males to opt for it, but
that is not what happened. Instead, mated males seemed to have an aversion
to the alcohol, while the rejected ones preferred it. In fact, they drank an average of four times
as much as their mated counterparts. Even more surprisingly, there may have been
a neurological reason for that. After follow-up observations, the scientists
discovered that the rejected flies’ brains had about half as much of a
chemical called neuropeptide F, which plays a role in alcohol preference. And if researchers experimentally decreased
the activity of neuropeptide in the mated males’ brains, they saw them drink like
the rejected males and vice versa. The scientists suggested that the drop in
neuropeptide F was a signal for the fruit flies to do something that would trigger their
reward pathway. And in this case, that meant drinking alcohol. The research is important because humans actually
have our own version of neuropeptide F. It’s called neuropeptide Y, and folks with
depression and post-traumatic stress disorder often have lower levels of it. There’s also some evidence in rats that
it plays a role in alcohol addiction. Right now, these fruit fly results don’t
translate to humans. But if future experiments show
similar results in people, it could help us develop
new treatments for alcohol abuse. If you’ve watched any news in the last few years,
you’ve probably heard about the opioid crisis. Opioids are drugs used to treat pain. They include prescription drugs like codeine
and morphine, along with street drugs like heroin. They work by binding to certain receptors
in the brain and spinal cord and blunting pain signals, and they are extremely effective. These drugs are often prescribed after major surgeries, but when used incorrectly, they can be addictive. That’s because they also tap into the brain’s
reward pathway and increase dopamine release. Opioid abusers can develop a tolerance for the drug, requiring larger and larger doses
to get the same effect. And in the United States, that leads an average
of 115 people overdosing on them every day. Scientists at the Scripps Research Institute
wondered if there might be a way to vaccinate someone against addiction. And in 2018, they published a paper in the
journal Neuropharmacology where they explored this idea by developing and testing an opioid
vaccine on rats. Normally, the body doesn’t have an immune
reaction to opioids. So to make the rats’ immune systems recognize
one, in this case, oxycodone, as harmful, they attached the drug molecule to a large
protein. In this experiment, they used a portion of
the tetanus toxoid protein. The hope was that, when the rats were injected
with this oxycodone vaccine, they would make antibodies
that recognized the oxycodone. Then, the next time the rat got a dose of
the regular drug, antibodies would attach to the drug molecule. And that would make them too big to get into
the brain and release dopamine. The cool thing is, it sort of worked! In follow-up experiments, the researchers
gave rats the option to self-inject oxycodone through an IV by pressing a lever in their
cage. They found that all of the unvaccinated rats
had developed an addiction, but only about half of the vaccinated rats did. And the rats in that half more easily kicked
the oxycodone habit when the researchers made it
harder to self-inject. Now, addiction behavior in humans is a lot more
complicated than rodents in a controlled laboratory. But experiments like this are helping scientists
work out the kinks in making a human vaccine. If scientists can get these treatments to
work in humans, a person in recovery could be
vaccinated against the drug they abused. That way, if they had a relapse, the drug
wouldn’t get them high. And in combination with other therapies, like
counseling, that might be game-changing. Finally, scientists sometimes
get animals high to see if drugs can be used in a helpful,
rather than a harmful way. One of those experiments happened in 2013,
when scientists gave mice ‘shrooms. Or more specifically, the active ingredient
in magic mushrooms: psilocybin. Psilocybin is most famous for causing hallucinations,
but it also binds to serotonin receptors. And besides regulating social behavior, like
in the octopuses, serotonin is also involved in short-term memory formation and in the
growth of new brain cells. In this study, published in Experimental Brain
Research, scientists wanted to see what effect the drug had on scary memories, and if it
played a role in fear conditioning, essentially, training an animal to be afraid of something. First, they split the mice into groups: some
who received various doses of psilocybin, and others who received harmless saline injections. Then, they played a tone and gave the mice
a painful shock. They did this repeatedly until the mice froze
in fear every time they heard the sound. Next, the team looked at how long it took
to undo this fearful behavior. They started by playing the tone but not shocking
the mice afterwards. And they recorded how many times they had
to do this before the mice stopped freezing. Mice that received low doses of the
psilocybin lost their fear of the tone faster than mice that got high doses
or mice that got saline. The low dose mice also
grew more new brain cells. The researchers don’t think these low doses were
enough to make the mice hallucinate, either. But, like you might imagine, they did admit it’s a
little hard to tell whether a mouse is hallucinating. Scientists are hoping that someday they might
be able to strategically use drugs like psilocybin to help treat conditions like post-traumatic
stress disorder. In the future, a doctor might be able to give
a patient a small dose of it during something like exposure therapy, where you face your
fears, to help patients overcome them. We’re not quite there yet, but this research
is definitely a good start. While some of these experiments might seem
silly at first glance, they’ve taught scientists a lot. They’re helping them learn how drugs affect
the brain, how we might use them clinically to treat psychiatric conditions, and how we might
better help people that become addicted to them. So for as good as all the headlines are,
the research is pretty solid, too. Another place you can hear about some solid
research is SciShow Tangents, our new weekly podcast, produced in collaboration with WNYC
studios. Each week four of the people who work on the
SciShow YouTube channels, including me, pick a theme and try to one-up
each other with all the cool science facts and research that we find
based on that theme. The show has different segments, like one
where someone presents a true fact alongside two fake facts, and everyone else has to untangle
the web of lies to figure out which one is true. We usually end up going on a bunch of tangents,
hence the name of the podcast, and we try to end every episode with a fact about butts. It’s a real good time! It’s called SciShow Tangents and you can
check it out wherever you get your podcasts! [♪ OUTRO]

100 thoughts on “5 Times Scientists Gave Animals Drugs (and What They Learned)”

  1. What should be the issue at hand, is how do these scientists have legal possession of the drug? Why is it big corporations and independent scientists can just access and use these drugs as they choose. In countries where these drugs are illegal, there clearly seems to be those who are above the laws and can do as they wish. Yes their research may help humans down the road, that isn't the issue. The issue is this double sided application of the law where those with money receive special benefits the regular citizens do not. Do any of these scientists get charged with possession of a controlled substance? Yet the casual user is treated like a capital criminal in these very same countries where others can possess them legally. There is no means for those without money to legally possess them. I am not supporting drug use but I do support a free person living in what is supposed to be a free country having the right to choose what they want to put in their own body without being restricted because of someone else's actions, beliefs, or religion.

  2. …WTF, When did "octopuses" (more than one octopus) become a word? When I was young you couldn't say octopus with an s, as plural you had to say "octopi" or is this one of those "Mandella effect" things?

  3. Why not just dry out coca leaves, grind it up I dust, then sprinkle that on your garden as a pesticide? I like diatomeacous Earth


  5. Of course the bees acted as that, those plants WANT bees to come around. That is how plants usually pollinate. So not only does it make enemy’s lose control and fall away but also it makes pollinators call for more help to pollinate them more. Plants are not stupid.

  6. Good info but COME ON not a tiny bit of video just to show us!!!! Want to watch the latest ‘must see’ movie? Or do you want THIS GUY to tell you all about it?!!!

  7. Scientist gave LSD to an Octopus. He made the mistake and looked at a mirror. He saw a human staring back at him……..bad trip, dude.

  8. I got this 2 spiders high now now one thinks is spiderman and the other wolverine..
    And I'm superman. 🤭🤭🤫🤫🤥🤥

  9. This is all to get people to where drugs don't have an effect on them so when the government come after you, you feel all the pain. Their sick sadistic bastards.

  10. You do realize they basically already have a intramuscular shot that blocks opioids to the brain that last 25-30 days and a pill that last 2-3 days. This is only somewhat effective and very expensive. The somewhat common thing would be users waiting 25 days and trying to use and then 26 and so on and would eventually back on the bender. The thought that I have a drug that will make it where I can't use again mentally made them feel safe guarded with a plan of using once in between doses. Which almost never happens. Obviously with a combination of therapy which only do so much in 30 days. I think it's called Vivatrol or something that starts with a V…lol.

  11. Right I feel that about the shrooms part like too much is course too much paranoia and crazy Ness but with doing just alittle cool amount is actually a really great high and or bussed booster similar to MDMA feel especially when done after a MDMA dose. This is my factual experience with the two.😁😎

  12. MDMA was actually first used in therapy sessions to make the paitent more loose and open with their true feelings without really being embarrassed to express their self's. Truth.. the more you know 😁😎

  13. If animals wanted intoxication, they would (and sometimes have) find it and choose too take it themselves! Leave the animals and there ways alone! This is one of them examples of science going too far. I mean WTF we don't know what there up to,,, for all we know there could be Polerbears running around on crack 😕😂

  14. How many times have they done this ? Why cant scientists do something worth while rather than being paid to play in the lab we know what drugs does to people so why on earth abuse more of nature for ridiculous reasons man shocking man …

  15. Hey. Don't knock the cat vids. I sit the bint down watching cat vids then frees me up for a few beers. 🍻🍺🍻🍺🍻

  16. This guy has a lot of great facts concering to drug addiction and the brain. They say they are looking to use illicit drugs off the stree and harder street drugs in the medical field but certain drugs they wont use bcos there is no positive results. It figures they are going to find a way to make drugs legal by slapping a medical condition on it and then they can do the drugs too.

  17. There's already a blocker for morphine/opioids/heroin…… it's called subutex & if you take it whilst on heroin it just wont do anything but if you do it the other way around like take heroin then a blocker (subutex) then that actually brings on withdrawals

  18. common ancestors? you mean my great great great great great great (etc) grand dad was the same great great great great great great (etc) grand dad of this octopus? was he human, or octopus? I'm confused. 500 million years ago??? wait. something's fishy here. you're just guessing right? did you discover this, or did someone tell you?

  19. I suffer from PTSD… not sure shrooms would be helpful but if the need volunteers to test the theory they can count me in! lol

  20. I did a clinical study on myself on the effects of marijuana on developing brains between the ages of 15 – 26. Don't ask what the results were. My memory isn't what it was.

  21. If William Proxmire was still around, he would definitely give the above mentioned research the Golden Fleece Award. Sometimes, it's easy to look at the surface and totally miss the value of the research. Especially if you do it on purpose.

  22. mumbles to self It's Octopi not octopuses… I mean I know that officially it is in fact octopuses but it it doesn't make sense since other things that end in os are made plural with an I, like hippopotami or Rhinoceri.

  23. At 3:57 – "they over-exaggerated . . . " There is no such word! That is redundant. You should know better!!

  24. Seratonin transporter gene. Is it bad that I pictured an octopus Jason Statham running drugs through the seas ? 😂

  25. So did the Octapus's End Up Being Very Horney Towards Other Octapuses? And What a Waist of Cocaine!!! To Give it to bee's and Not Make it Legal for People like myself, is BS!!!

  26. Yo guys 2020 is the last year for humans on planet earth we will evolve after the nuclear war trump starts

  27. I think it's wrong do any kind of experiment on animals especially drugs it's really sad and it breaks my heart is he any animal mistreated whether it be a mouse or anything else or an octopus the people who do his experiment she come back in the next life as animals did they made suffer until they understand it's not worth it doing all these experiments for what see if we can use them we already know we can use drugs we don't need a place animals under stress to prove that drugs can be bad for some people

  28. Damn fool! Humans and octopus never "went their separate ways". God Himself created modern human beings from the dust of the earth! Science has so many things so wrong trying to make everybody believe the ultimate lie on Satins agenda, that God doesn't exist. You just lost any least THIS viewer.

  29. I had a pretty bad spinal injury and currently take oxycodone for severe pain.. Oxycodone does a fantastic job of relieving me of my constant pain. My question is… If I were to be vaccinated against oxycodone, would that keep me from using the drug to relieve my pain? And if so, is there an alternative that is as effective?

  30. Next time you get pulled over and the cops ask if you have any drugs in the car,,just tell them hey officer anything you find is not mine it's for the test subjects back at the lab ,,honestly I only administer to the scientific community,,,

  31. Heroin is illegal in the US, but in Great Britain it's used legally on prescription for people with severe pain.

  32. 3:53 Over-…exaggerated?

    Hrngghgggghhh! Bad grammar!

    (Cue people pointing out that it's syntactically or semantically incorrect, not grammatically.)

    Anyway, bees on cocaine, eh? Heh. Good ol' scientists.

  33. Not only do these experiments seem "silly" at first but they ARE cruel, inhuman, and AWFUL to the animal

  34. Given a choice, I'd much rather go to the pub than have sex with my wife.
    In fact, I'd probably rather have sex with that loved up Octopus than my wife.

  35. Okay, I understand how you give humans E….the stomach is a controlled space…but octapus
    Aw… didn't show the spiders on LSD….

  36. A vaccine against drugs is one of the most evil and despicable things I've ever heard. CONGRATS, you solved the addiction, so now the vaccinated person is just suffering from their physical/mental anguish instead, which the drug was treating before. Disgusting.

  37. Those octopi 🐙 are also called Nima octopus they use those to spots on the side of there somewhat torso to make them look bigger than they are to predators if anyone was curious

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