Poke a snail with a stick and it remembers for a day. Poke a snail with a stick after you’ve given it methamphetamine and it remembers for much longer.
Getting gastropods hooked on meth perhaps sounds cruel, but Barbara Sorg and her team are among those scientists trying to figure out how the drug works in the brain to produce intense connections that feed the addiction cycle. In a study forthcoming in the Journal of Experimental Biology, the scientists show that, in snails at least, meth makes it hard to forget things that happened while on the drug.
Here’s the test: The snails Sorg studied can breathe two ways, through their skin underwater and also through a breathing tube they can deploy when they surface. The team kept two groups of snails—one on meth, one not—in separate tanks of shallow water. And if the snails tried to surface and breathe that way, the scientists would poke them.