Created By: MarqFJA on November 15, 2012 Last Edited By: zarpaulus on November 21, 2015
Troped

Eat Brain For Memories

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Trope
In fiction, some creatures are somehow able to obtain the memories of other beings by consuming their grey matter. The possibility of this in real life is unlikely, most evidence suggests that memories are "stored" in the connections between brain cells, which would be destroyed in the process of eating a brain usually. Though there are some hypotheses that memory is at least partially stored as chemicals inside the cells, which might survive something's digestive processes.

Sub-Trope of Cannibalism Superpower and Brain Food. Sister Trope of Genetic Memory, where the memories are instead recorded in the genes. Compare You Are Who You Eat.


Examples:

Anime and Manga
  • Yoma in Claymore normally ate human entrails but could also devour a person's brain to absorb their memories and impersonate them. The impersonation was so convincing that a number of ignorant villagers believe that Yoma are contagious and cast out certain characters who had close contact with them.

Comic Books

Film
  • The Thing (1982). A Thing can do this when it consumes a human being and converts it into a Thing. The new Thing has all of the memories of the original person.
  • The Brain Bug in Starship Troopers was believed to do this. (We know it ate brains, but the reason was only theorized.)
  • In Warm Bodies, zombies hunger for brains because they experience the memories when they do, which is the closest they can come now to feeling alive. Besides feeling love, that is.

Literature
  • Dean Koontz's Phantoms. A gigantic protoplasmic monster consumes human beings and absorbs their memories from their brains.
  • Piers Anthony's Firefly. A small protoplasmic monster dissolves and absorbs the interior of people's bodies. It gains their memories and personality from their brains.
  • In The Runelords, Reavers share a racial memory by eating the brains of their dead. At one point, a child eats a Reaver brain and gains the same benefit, providing an insight into their planning and purpose.
  • Spots The Space Marine: Fiddlers (humanity's allies) absorb the memories of their predecessors by consuming them alive. The Crabs (enemies) do the same and attempt to do so to captured human marines, though the Fiddler liason who reveals this bit of information believes that their biology is incompatible.
  • In Book of the New Sun, eating an alzabo gland extract gives its consumer memories of whoever was eaten by that alzabo.
  • The Star Trek original series novel Dreams of the Raven has the titular Raven aliens able to gain access to their victims' knowledge and memories (to the point of being able to vocally imitate them perfectly) by eating their brains.
  • In Skulduggery Pleasant, Valkyrie once interrogated a prisoner by making him think that her friend Tanith Low had the power to do this, and would do so if he refused to talk.
  • In the Doctor Who Missing Adventures novel Venusian Lullaby, the native intelligent race of Venus can do this, and sharing out the deceased's brain is an important part of their funeral customs.

Live-Action TV
  • Liv of iZombie is a zombie who stays civilized and intelligent by eating the brains of corpses that come into the morgue where she works. She also helps the police by eating murder victims and picking up bits of their memories and skills.

Tabletop Games
  • Dungeons & Dragons has the Illithids (aka Mind Flayers) who do this. They gain memories, skills, and even class levels by doing so.
  • Warhammer 40K
    • Some Space Marines can do this, depending on canon.
    • Tyranids, most infamously lictors ( Tyranid Stealthy Colossus scouts) but anything with feeder tendrils might show this ability. This is pretty much their only way of gathering intel, as they never talk with their food.
  • Werewolf: The Apocalypse has the Eaters of the Dead, a small cult of Silent Strider werewolves who've discovered a magic rite that lets them absorb memories and skills from other supernaturals by eating their brains. Habitual use of this rite has turned them into paranoid, blood-crazed serial killers, and quite wrecked their sanity. Their original goals were to use the rite temporarily until they found a better way to permanently regain all that their tribe had lost. But at this point they just wander around looking for other supernatural creatures to murder — the older, the better.
  • In Myriad Song the carnivorous plants known as Morphir can be fed the brains of sentient animals and they will grow buds that when smoked as a drug cause hallucinations of the brain-donor's memories. The brains of sapient animals (i.e. humans) produce particularly strong buds, and gradually make the Morphir plant itself intelligent, and mobile, and playable as characters. Not all Morphir characters can suck out people's brains and access their memories, but it's not hard for them to take the abilities as Gifts.
  • In Hc Svnt Dracones Nymphs, the insect analogues used for environmental maintenance on terraformed Mars and Venus, were designed to gain memories from eating each others' brains to exchange information between colonies and preserve maintenance directives over many generations. 40 years ago some scientist thought it would be a good idea to create a sapient Nymph. It ate him.

Video Games
  • In Kingdom of Loathing, the Zombie Master Special Challenge Path uses "Hunter brains" to level up their Skill Trees. The use message for "Good brain" is "Oh, man is that Gravity's Rainbow? Oh, just, like, the first third. Still, though!" Decent brains give the urge to go watch TV (but not reality TV, so it's OK), and Crappy brains "...smell of illiteracy and superstition."
  • [PROTOTYPE] has Mercer and Heller do eat entire people, including their brains, in order to assimilate their memories in order to understand a Web Of Intrigue about a grand conspiracy behind Gentek.
  • In Sword of the Stars Hiver princesses and queens can eat the brains of their deceased subjects and imprint them on new embryos. Allowing a form of reincarnation, with the possibility of moving up in the Hive Caste System.

Western Animation
  • The Simpsons, "The Spy Who Learned Me"
    Burns: Oh pish, when I was in Africa I had my skull cracked open by cannibals and I'm still kicking.
    Smithers: Sir, that was your partner, you betrayed him to the cannibals.
    Burns: Oh right, I have his memories because I ate his brain.


Community Feedback Replies: 39
  • November 15, 2012
    m8e
    • The Simpsons, The Spy Who Learned Me(S23 E20)
      Burns: Oh pish, when I was in Africa I had my skull cracked open by cannibals and I'm still kicking.
      Smithers: Sir, that was your partner, you betrayed him to the cannibals.
      Burns: Oh right, I have his memories because I ate his brain.
  • November 15, 2012
    JohnnyCache
    • Dungeons And Dragons has the Illithids (aka Mind Flayers) who do this. They gain memories, skills, and even class levels by doing so.
  • November 15, 2012
    Chabal2
    • Some Space Marines can do this in Warhammer 40 K, depending on canon.
      • The Kroot can do this, as their leaders are somehow capable of choosing what bits of DNA are and aren't currently useful. Their ability to make firearms came from eating an ork Mek (whose mechanical knowledge and skill is genetic).

  • November 15, 2012
    ArcadesSabboth
    • Werewolf The Apocalypse has the Eaters of the Dead, a small cult of Silent Strider werewolves who've discovered a magic rite that lets them absorb memories and skills from other supernaturals by eating their brains. Habitual use of this rite has turned them into paraniod, blood-crazed serial killers, and quite wrecked their sanity. Their original goals were to use the rite temporarily until they found a better way to permanently regain all that their tribe had lost. But at this point they just wander around looking for other supernatural creatures to murder -- the older, the better.
  • November 15, 2012
    MrRuano
    • Prototype has Mercer and Heller do eat entire people, including their brains, in order to assimilate their memories in order to understand a Web Of Intrigue about a grand conspiracy behind Gentek.
  • November 15, 2012
    zarpaulus
    I think there was a villain in Sluggy Freelance who was full of nanites and could absorb memories from other people by eating them.
  • November 15, 2012
    Karalora
    Didn't biologists used to think some organisms could actually do this in Real Life? Carl Sagan's book The Dragons of Eden mentions flatworms that learned a maze more quickly after being fed other flatworms that already knew it. I think the research was eventually discredited, though. Still might be worth mentioning.
  • November 15, 2012
    StarSword
    Film
    • The Brain Bug in Starship Troopers was believed to do this. (We know it ate brains, but the reason was only theorized.)
  • November 15, 2012
    Mozgwsloiku
    • The Kroot example is wrong. They have an ability to gain their prey's physical attributes, not memories. The reason they learned technology from Orks through brain eating comes from the orks themselves - they have been engineered as a self-replicating army, so their attributes include strong genetic memory of how to build ork "technology".
    • Another WH 40000 example - Tyranids: most infamously lictors ( Tyranid Stealthy Colossus scouts) but anything with feeder tendrils might show this ability. This is pretty much their only way of gathering intel, as they never talk with their food.
  • November 15, 2012
    PaulA
    • There's at least one version of the DC Comics supervillain Grodd who did this.
  • November 15, 2012
    Irrisia
  • November 16, 2012
    dvorak
    In Kingdom Of Loathing, the Zombie Master Special Challenge Path uses "Hunter brains" to level up their Skill Trees. The use message for "Good brain" is "Oh, man is that Gravitys Rainbow? Oh, just, like, the first third. Still, though!" Decent brains give the urge to go watch TV (but not reality TV, so it's OK), and Crappy brains "...smell of illiteracy and superstition."
  • November 16, 2012
    Arivne
    Film
    • The Thing 1982. A Thing can do this when it consumes a human being and converts it into a Thing. The new Thing has all of the memories of the original person.

    Literature
    • Dean Koontz's Phantoms. A gigantic protoplasmic monster consumes human beings and absorbs their memories from their brains.
    • Piers Anthony's Firefly. A small protoplasmic monster dissolves and absorbs the interior of people's bodies. It gains their memories and personality from their brains.
  • November 26, 2012
    zarpaulus
    Anime and Manga
    • Yoma in Claymore normally ate human entrails but could also devour a person's brain to absorb their memories and impersonate them. The impersonation was so convincing that a number of ignorant villagers believe that Yoma are contagious and cast out certain characters who had close contact with them.
  • November 26, 2012
    JonnyB
    IIRC, Sylar in Heroes would eat his victims' brains to gain their superpowers. Is that this trope?
  • November 26, 2012
    zarpaulus
    ^ No because he didn't eat them. Word Of God he just studied them to see "what makes them tick".
  • November 26, 2012
    JonnyB
    Ah. I couldn't quite remember. Thanks.
  • November 27, 2012
    ArcadesSabboth
    Zarpaulus, are you sure the Youma eat the brains? In the Manga the nature of the Youma is explained more, and it seems that they're Puppeteer Parasite brain slugs that turn humans into meat puppets, so they already have access to the brain without eating it.
  • December 24, 2012
    randomsurfer
    ^^^^FWIW that was the Wild Mass Guessing until it was Jossed when Syler caught Claire and split her head open to examine her brain.
    Claire: Are you gonna eat it?
    Sylar: Eat your brain? Claire, that's disgusting.
  • December 24, 2012
    Generality
    • In The Runelords, Reavers share a racial memory by eating the brains of their dead. At one point, a child eats a Reaver brain and gains the same benefit, providing an insight into their planning and purpose.
  • February 18, 2013
    zarpaulus
    • Spots The Space Marine: Fiddlers (humanity's allies) absorb the memories of their predecessors by consuming them alive. The Crabs (enemies) do the same and attempt to do so to captured human marines, though the Fiddler liason who reveals this bit of information believes that their biology is incompatible.
  • February 18, 2013
    Diask
    • In Book Of The New Sun, eating an alzabo gland extract gives its consumer memories of whoever was eaten by that alzabo.
  • February 19, 2013
    fanfare
    interesting concept indeed. I am <a href="http://www.cadbaskets.com/thank-you-gifts/">for</a> it
  • February 19, 2013
    Guyven
    I wonder if 'brains' is too specific. There is a significant plot point in the Underworld films where the vampires are able to perceive their victim's memories by consuming their blood.
  • January 16, 2015
    jormis29
    • Examples section formatting
      • Blue Linked media section titles.
      • Namespaced and italicized work names.
      • Added space in between bullet points and examples.
  • January 16, 2015
    dalek955
    • In Warm Bodies, zombies hunger for brains because they experience the memories when they do, which is the closest they can come now to feeling alive. Besides feeling love, that is.

    Does it have to be the brain, or more general consumption of essence? Because if it's the latter:
  • January 17, 2015
    Earnest
    See also You Are Who You Eat, which makes the eater physically able to become the person they ate / stay in human form.
  • January 17, 2015
    zarpaulus
    Anyone updating this?
  • January 17, 2015
    Exxolon
    The Star Trek original series novel Dreams of the Raven has the titular Raven aliens able to gain access to their victims knowledge and memories (to the point of being able to vocally imitate them perfectly) by eating their brains.
  • January 18, 2015
    crazysamaritan
    "X do/did this" is a Zero Counterexample. This draft is not ready to launch.
  • July 11, 2015
    zarpaulus
    Tabletop Games
    • In Myriad Song the carnivorous plants known as Morphir can be fed the brains of sentient animals and they will grow buds that when smoked as a drug cause hallucinations of the brain-donor's memories. The brains of sapient animals (i.e. humans) produce particularly strong buds, and gradually make the Morphir plant itself intelligent, and mobile, and playable as characters. Not all Morphir characters can suck out people's brains and access their memories, but it's not hard for them to take the abilities as Gifts.
  • July 12, 2015
    dalek955
    • In Skulduggery Pleasant, Valkyrie once interrogated a prisoner by making him think that her friend Tanith Low had the power to do this, and would do so if he refused to talk.
  • November 15, 2015
    zarpaulus
    Since it's up for grabs I rewrote the description a bit. Though it seems a tad sparse now.
  • November 15, 2015
    PaulA
    • In the Doctor Who Missing Adventures novel Venusian Lullaby, the native intelligent race of Venus can do this, and sharing out the deceased's brain is an important part of their funeral customs.
  • November 15, 2015
    DAN004
    ^^ Grab it full-time please.
  • November 16, 2015
    Arivne
    • Examples section
      • Namespaced work names.
      • Corrected spelling (victims knowledge -> victims', paraniod, Gravitys Raibow).
  • November 17, 2015
    zarpaulus
    Does the description require more detail?

    Please don't respond without helpful suggestions.
  • November 17, 2015
    DAN004
    ^ Maybe explain a bit how a brain stores memories and, perhaps, how media make this trope work.
  • November 18, 2015
    zarpaulus
    All right. Think it's ready for a long overdue launch?

Three days must pass before this YKTTW is Launchworthy or Discardable

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=rfe61ee23622sqq4nzvjdt6k