Gorillas ‘spinning in circles to get high’

A viral video of a gorilla spinning in a pool prompted researchers to take a closer look at the activity – Alamy

Gorillas and other great apes spin in circles to get high — and early humans who lived millions of years ago may have done the same, scientists believe.

The researchers saw viral video of a gorilla spinning in a pool and wondered why the ape behaved the way it did, if it’s more widespread, and what its purpose might be.

Further online research revealed it was a common behavior, and analysis of more than 40 videos showed the monkeys using rope or vines to spin themselves more than five times at a speed of 1.5 revolutions per second to turn.

Primates did it three times in a row on average, and the spinning was as fast as a human circus performer.

The researchers said there are examples throughout history of cultures seeking an altered state of mind, with dervish Muslims using dance to achieve this by spinning to make themselves dizzy.

The team believes the close relationship between apes and humans suggests the apes are turning to achieve an altered state of mind.

The first type of high invented by our ancestors

dr Adriano Lameira, associate professor of psychology at the University of Warwick and co-author of the study, said monkey behavior was done on purpose to induce a sense of euphoria.

“As you will see from the average number of turns and spinning fits, great apes committed this behavior repeatedly on purpose,” he told The Telegraph.

He believes the behavior of the monkeys achieves a psychological state similar to that of drugs, but with a short and light high that requires no substances.

It’s also probably the first type of high or mind-altering way ever devised by ancient human ancestors, he added.

“If not the original high, then at least one of the oldest, predating the substance-induced high,” said Dr. Lameira.

“But it still survives in our closest living relatives and could therefore be used to study the ‘original’ motivations for altered states more generally.”

form of social bonding or entertainment

After finding the videos, the team tried to recreate the speed and duration of the ape-like movements, but found it difficult to keep going as long as the monkeys.

dr Lameira said that monkey spinning could be a form of social bonding or light entertainment — and that it may have been the same for our prehistoric ancestors before the advent of psychotropic drugs.

“Our observations took place primarily in captivity, where highly intelligent animals such as great apes may experience little sensory and cognitive stimulation and challenge,” said Dr. Lameira.

“As such, the urge in great apes to engage in spinning is very similar to that of a child wanting to ride a merry-go-round at the playground, or similar to that of humans seeking entertainment.”

The study was published in the journal Primates.

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