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Brain in a Jar

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fMRI reading: "99 bottles of beer on the wall, 99 bottles of beer..."

"We are all aware that the senses can be deceived, the eyes fooled. But how can we be sure our senses are not being deceived at any particular time or even all the time? Might I just be a brain in a tank somewhere, tricked all my life into believing in the events of this world by some insane computer? And does my life gain or lose meaning based on my reaction to such solipsism?"Project PYRRHO, Specimen 46, Vat 7 Subject termination advised
Flavor Text for the Bioenhancement Center facility, Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri
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The Wonders of Science can keep a human brain alive in a plastic fishbowl with a few wires and doo-dads running into it. Sometimes this is benevolent, but usually it's nefarious (it may count as a Dark Lord on Life Support, or be the first step towards Unwilling Roboticisation). Occasionally, an underachiever Mad Scientist may need to keep the whole head alive, not just the brain. Sometimes the spinal cord and/or eyeballs are also there.

Sometimes it is presented as the end result of natural evolutionary processes. One day, we may find the rest of our bodies superfluous and exist simply as disembodied brains.

Also frequently falling under this trope is the Poor Man's Substitute of severed heads kept alive in jars or on surfaces that can disguise the fact that the rest of the actor is beneath the table when the head is active, which at least has the advantage of allowing the actor to act in some scenes.

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Occasionally with this trope, a virtual reality is put into the brain so that it thinks it's a regular person with a body, making it a sort of Lotus-Eater Machine. See The Other Wiki's "brain in a vat" article for further discussion of this idea.

It seems that in about one in five examples of this trope the brain will be Hitler's. Walt Disney (or more likely a No Celebrities Were Harmed Expy of him) is also popular. Expect them to be given mobility by being encased in robotic life support units... with Death Rays! For Science!

Keep in mind that in real life, just pulling the brain out of a living person's head and plopping it in a tub of sterile saline would leave you with a starved, dead brain the next morning, so you'd need to hook the blood vessels up to some sort of fluid pump (ala the heart) to keep the brain supplied with oxygen and nutrients. But then you'd also need an air pump (ala the lungs) and nutrient intake device (ala the digestive tract) to keep that fluid pump supplied with that oxygen and nutrients. And then you'd need a regular filtration system (ala the urinary system) to keep the brain from dying of "blood" poisoning. But at this point it all amounts to basically a near-complete prosthetic body, so you might as well attach some limbs and call it a robot with a Wetware CPU, or a Full-Conversion Cyborg.

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Compare with People Jars and Man in the Machine; pretty much the same thing, but with complete bodies instead of just a brain. Compare also Soul Jar, in which the more immaterial essence of one's self is preserved. Compare Heart Drive, for a robotic (and sometimes biological) equivalent. Compare with Oracular Head when the head may be preserved by other means and used for answering questions of a divinatory nature. Wetware CPU is a version used as a computer. Compare to Losing Your Head when the whole head is preserved and capable of independent movement. Compare Brain Transplant when the brain is given a new body. This may or may not lead to And I Must Scream. May also be a result of Brain Theft.


Example subpages:

Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • AKIRA: This is the current state of Akira, together with the rest of his nervous system... until he comes back, that is.
  • Bleach:
    • Aaroniero Arrurerie's true form is that he has a glass jar where his head is supposed to be, filled with a blood-like substance and contains two Hollow-mask heads.
    • Gremmy Thoumeaux is revealed to be a brain in a jar held in an artificial body made by his Imagination-Based Superpower.
  • Buso Renkin: After being paralysed from the neck down, Alexandria, Victor's wife, transferred her brain life preserving jar to preserve her life long enough to develop a way to make him human again. Over the years Alexandria also repeatedly cloned her brain so that she could link their jars together in an attempt to boost her already genius level intellect.
  • Captain Future: Simon Wright is an archetypal brain in a (highly mobile) jar, with a tractor beam, other appendages, and an array of blinkenlights for a mouth.
  • A Certain Magical Index:
    • Teitoku Kakine has been reduced to this after Accelerator horribly dismembers him. It's also forced to create a constant stream of Dark Matter for the use of Academy City's soldiers. He eventually manages to create a new body out of Dark Matter and escape.
    • Rensa is a cyborg with forty different brains that can be inserted into her head to animate her. After Touma destroys Rensa, he finds the brains and puts them into cold storage until something can be done about them.
    • In A Certain Scientific Railgun, Exterior is revealed to be a giant brain in a tube, cultivated from part of Misaki's cerebral cortex. It was intended to allow other people to use the ability Mental Out.
  • Cyborg 009: In the 2001 version, the true leaders of Black Ghost are three brains in jars, hiding inside a shuttle. The three can somehow speak: one talks with a man's voice, another with a woman's, and the third has a child's one.
  • Dragon Ball Z:
    • Dragon Ball Z: The World's Strongest, the second movie, features Dr. Wheelo, who seems to be a brain in a jar. But then turns out to be a brain in a jar in a massive mecha. With guns. And lasers.
    • In the main series, as an android, Dr. Gero's brain is stored in a glass dome on his head. It's usually covered by his Nice Hat, though.
  • EX-ARM: In the beginning, Akira has been reduced to a brain in a titanium suitcase but can control hacked electronics, including an Animated Armor, like he would his own body.
  • Final Fantasy V: The anime sequel has the Big Bad steal Cid's corpse from his tomb and resurrect him as a HUGE brain. Seriously, it's several times the size of a human.
  • Ghost in the Shell:
    • Most full cyborg models allow for the case that holds the brain to be removed and connected to an external life support system. In one episode of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, a government official is about to be smuggled out of the country by hiding his brain in a suitcase. In another, an unconventional movie director decided to eschew his body, placing his brain case into a networked life support system and waiting for any wandering divers to come watch the movie in his brain.
    • Both the anime and manga versions have minor characters described as Jameson-type cyborgs (it's a brand name) which take this more literally than most. Most full-body cyborgs have a body that at least looks human but Jameson-types eschew this with a roughly cubic metal box on wheeled legs with a camera on a stick and a manipulator arm. For extra irony, in the anime, one runs a company that specializes in growing cloned organs for those who don't want cybernetic replacements if injured... and he got the money to found the company by selling all his organs in the first place (he was noted as being something of a "gung-ho company guy" considering the lengths he was willing to go to make a sale).
    • The central character, Major Motoko Kusanagi, is a full cyborg and thus this trope. The purple-haired bombshell is the jar.
  • Kamen Rider: In Shotaro Ishinomori's original manga version, Takeshi Hongo, the Kamen Rider himself, is mortally wounded fighting the Shocker Riders. His brain is hooked into a computer and he becomes Mission Control for Hayato Ichimonji, who takes up the Kamen Rider mantle. In the final chapter, Hongo's brain is implanted into a fully mechanical body and he helps Ichimonji defeat Shocker once and for all.
  • Knights of Sidonia: The traitorous Ochiai had his cybernetically-enhanced brain taken out and placed in storage after he destroyed most of Sidonia's libraries and data stores, leaving him the sole possessor of the knowledge they possessed. A clone of him, conditioned to be loyal to Sidonia, was created to act as a medium through which they can access his knowledge. Ochiai's mind eventually escapes confinement when he takes over Norio Kunato's body.
  • Lupin III: In The Mystery of Mamo, at the end, it turns out the movie's main villain was a gigantic version of this trope all along, and all the "clones" of him running around were all controlled with microchips in their brains that were wirelessly connected to him.
  • Mazinger Z and Great Mazinger: The Kedora. Ken Ishikawa one-shot "The Relic of Evil" revealed that the Mykene controlled his Robeast by grafting the brain of a soldier taught to destroy all non-Mykene civilizations into a parasitic organism, and it fused with a robot, giving the Mykene soldier complete control. They would show up later in Shin Mazinger.
  • Murasakiiro no Qualia: One can be seen in chapter 11. It's Yukari's brain. The real-life example of Einstein's brain is also mentioned.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion: The Magi computers are powered by human brains. However, although an episode mentions "organic supercomputers" that bear a strong resemblance to a human brain, it's not clear whether they use actual cloned human brain tissue or are just reverse-engineered. The best that can be determined is that all three are based on the brain of Dr. Naoko Akagi (Ritsuko's mother) or rather specific aspects of her: one is based on her as a scientist, one on her as a mother, and the last on her as a woman.
  • Rebuild World: Alpha mentions that individuals whose brains have the ability to interact with the Old World network are highly valuable to the government. As a result, Akira might get dissected and be reduced to a brain in a jar if anyone finds out about it.
  • R.O.D the TV: It is (briefly) revealed that the reality-warping effect that causes London to take on elements of fictional works like The War of the Worlds and The Lost World (1912) is (at least in part) run by the preserved brains of famous authors.

    Card Games 
  • Gloom: Lord Slogar is a brain in a jar. Presumably his condition is the result of an experiment by his Mad Scientist wife, Helena.
  • Magic: The Gathering:
    • A longtime Running Gag on the website is that Magic's Research And Development department is run by Gleemax, a literal brain in a jar, which even has its own (not tournament-legal) card. The gag dates back to at least the February 1998 issue of the long-defunct Duelist magazine, in which Mark Rosewater explains the 'Top Ten Myths About Magic R&D' — the myth about Gleemax is listed as #1, and it's not quite clear from context whether MaRo refers to an actual earlier myth or is just throwing in a red herring on the fly.
    • The Psychosis Crawler is a brain in a tank of fluid mounted on a Spider Tank. The abundant space in the vat and the card's flavor text imply that more than one brain might find its way into that jar.
      "If that brain can't figure out the secret of the serum, then add more brains."
      —Rhmir, Hand of the Augur
    • No longer content to merely beat around the bush, Shadows over Innistrad goes for broke and includes a card directly named "Brain in a Jar".
  • Munchkin: The Brain in a Jar is an enemy in Star Munchkin.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! has Mind Master. There's also the brain in the Field Spell Brain Research Lab, which might actually be the same one as Mind Master.

    Comic Books 
  • 2000 AD:
    • The futuristic sports team the Harlem Heroes suffers a crash in their first adventure. One member becomes a brain in a jar as a result.
    • Bad Company features Kano, a patched-together half-mad soldier who believes he carries the human part of his brain in a box. It's really just some random corpse's grey matter to keep him docile; he tends to go a little (more) crazy when he thinks he's lost it.
    • Shakara: The boss of an intergalactic slave auction is a giant spinal cord and brain stem in a glass.
  • Albert Einstein: Time Mason: In "Brain Game", Albert time travels to New Jersey in 2214 to battle a group of Pro-Oscalists who have stolen a brain in a jar. Specifically, it's Albert's brain.
  • Atomic Robo has Heinrich von Helsingard, the crazy scientist who isn't just a brain in a jar. He is several brains in several jars, apparently having cloned himself to immortality. Every time his currently active brain dies, a new one "wakes up".
  • Doom Patrol:
  • In Empowered, the supervillain Psychoblast has been reduced to a brain in a jar. He apparently still has his powers, as the villain Idea Man comments that he can trigger the apocalypse, but Psychoblast has to be roused from slumber by beaming images into his mind, preferably images of a Hot Librarian.
  • President Rexall of Give Me Liberty becomes one of these after his coma. He even campaigns as such...
  • The Brain from Sirius, a recurring antagonist from E-Man is a huge brain in a container.
  • Hellboy:
    • One of Hellboy's enemies is Professor Doctor Herman Von Klempt, the Nazi head-in-a-jar.
    • More literally in the spinoff one-shot "The Iron Prometheus" starring Badass Normal Lobster Johnson. In order to extract the secrets of the Vril Energy Suit from Professor Gallaragas the villains literally do this to him. Then the villain shoots him. He comes back later as a the Ghostly Advisor to the guy wearing the VES suit.
  • Marvel Universe:
    • The Invaders (Marvel Comics) and Alpha Flight villain Brain Drain.
    • The Eternal Brain, a Golden Age hero later revamped as a member of the Retcon-riffic superhero team the First Line from the Marvel: The Lost Generation series.
    • Introduced in New X-Men, Martha Johansson, a.k.a. No-Girl, is a psychic mutant who ran away from home as a teen, only to be abducted by the U-Men. Their leader, John Sublime, had her brain removed and body destroyed, keeping her mind under his control with drugs and using her as a psychic weapon until No-Girl telepathically forced him to commit suicide. Afterwards, she joins the Xavier Institute and is given a hovering glass tank to keep her brain safe and mobile. She apparently adjusts well to her lack of a body, and in a future continuity becomes the new Cerebra.
    • The Kree Supreme Intelligence is a combination of their world's greatest minds, all in one big jar.
    • Doctor Sun, a Chinese enemy of Dracula in The Tomb of Dracula (we know he's Chinese because we are told); he later went on to menace Nova and finally the Fantastic Four, before getting blown up while controlling H.E.R.B.I.E. the robot.
    • Iron Man in Marvel 100th Anniversary Special. Well, his Avengers incarnation, anyway - his Guardians of the Galaxy counterpart is a clone composed of nanites and Tony's brainwaves.
    • Tony Stark has been reduced to this at least twice in alternate timelines due to the machinations of villains. In Captain America Corps, the altered timeline has him reduced to a brain and eyeballs in a glass cylinder by Superia, his intellect used to devise her weapons, with him begging for death. During a Dark Avengers arc that deals with a pocket timeline controlled by A.I.M., the Tony of said timeline has long since been reduced to a brain in a flying sphere. He apparently keeps this secret from all his allies, who just assume he never takes off his armor anymore.
    • In Avengers: The Initiative, Think Tank is a member of Montana's state superteam, Freedom Force. To all appearances, his head is a brain in a spherical glass case perched atop an otherwise completely normal human body. He's telekinetic and wears a headband and not much else is known about him.
  • Molly Danger: Medula has a robotic body, with his brain in a jar full of green liquid located where his head would be.
  • A background villain in Powers Vol 1 #35 and #36 is a living skull in a jar.
  • The Savage Dragon features recurring villain Brainiape, who is this combined with psychic powers and being a simian... and whose occupant turns out to be the mutated, preserved brain of Adolf Hitler.
  • An album of Sillage features this being repeatedly used by an assassin on his marks. After defeating a target, he slices his head open and teleports his brain away in a previously prepared jar. This is intended as a way to both imprison and interrogate them since most of them are rather powerful and rich people. All of these persons being non-humans of various species, some with a Bizarre Alien Biology like an alien with an X-shaped head and four small brains require quite specific jars.
  • In Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics), after Dimitri is stripped of his Enerjak powers, he's put on heavy life support. Later, after being experimented on by Doctor Finitevus, his head is removed and placed in a floating bubble.
  • Star Wars Legends:
  • One Horde scheme in Strikeforce: Morituri was to use attack robots driven by decapitated (yet screaming) human heads as Mooks against human forces.
  • Superman:
    • During an early '90s story, Lex Luthor fakes his suicide and has his brain (along with spine and eyeballs) put in a vat from which it directs its very own transplant to a younger Luthor clone.
    • The late-'80s Superman villain Hfuhruhurr was an alien who removed brains from living people and placed them in machines which psychically linked them together, creating a Hive Mind called "the Union" which possessed telepathic and telekinetic abilities.
    • The Unknown Supergirl reveals that in the Kryptonian city of Kandor, its greatest minds' brains are preserved in fluid-filled vats so they can keep coming up with new ideas for the Kandor's benefit.
      Kara: The brains of Kandor's geniuses are preserved in chemicals, so they can continue to create great ideas, after their bodies have died! The brains can actually "write" their thoughts!
    • The Girl with the X-Ray Mind: As a teenager, Lex Luthor kept a big alien brain in a glass cage to study the weird waves of psychic energy that radiated from its grey matter.
    • In the Elseworld Superman & Batman: Generations, Lex Luthor is reduced to a brain in a jar after the Ultra-Humanite hijacks his body in the 1940s. He gets a robot suit powered by Kryptonite, becoming this universe's version of Superman villain Metallo. In Generations 3, he causes even more trouble by helping Darkseid's Parademons set off a bomb that shorts out modern technology, sending humanity into a dark age until they get back on their feet in the 23rd century.
  • EC Comics: In "Operation Friendship", from Tales from the Crypt #41, a genius who felt that he was losing his best friend to said friend's less-intellectual new wife removed about two-thirds of the guy's brain and kept it in a jar with a speaker attachment.
  • In Wacky Raceland, it's eventually revealed that the Announcer is Pat Pending's wife, who was reduced to this state after an accident in their lab. Unfortunately, this drove her insane in the process, and she decided to destroy the world for fun.
  • In the Wonder Woman '77 comics, based on the TV series, Gault's disembodied brain makes a return appearance.

    Comic Strips 
  • Several The Far Side cartoons played with this trope, including one where a Jan in the Pan-esque severed head begins screaming in horror at its circumstances, only to receive an anti-insanity slap from the mad scientist who created it. "Thanks, Professor, I needed that."
  • An ongoing story in Tom the Dancing Bug features the life of a disembodied brain in a vat. The brain's owner keeps it on his desk as a conversation piece and uses his desktop computer to feed it simulated sense data that leads it to believe it is an ordinary human living out a humdrum existence in the real world.

    Fan Works 
  • Ask Brainy Twilight:
    • In which Twilight Sparkle turns herself into a brain in a jar for perfectly logical reasons.
    • Brainy Twilight once crossed over with Serious Rainbow to see if putting Serious's brain in a jar would override her Resurrective Immortality. The answer was no; it produces two Serious Rainbows, one's just a brain in a jar. She later takes the nickname Brainbow Dash and helps Derpy out in the lab. For the most part, Brainbow is happy with her life as a Brain in a Jar (except when she found out she could have had C-cups).
  • The true nature of Future Calvin in Calvin and Hobbes: The Series.
  • In The Power He Knows Not Is Voldemort stuck the brain of a mook who failed him in a glass globe attached to an eye and a large number of flytraps. The eye acted as a surveillance system while the plants supplied enough nutrients to keep the whole thing in operation.
  • Left Beyond: Heavy Mech Troopers are a version of this, although usually the whole head is kept intact because rewiring eyes and ears is difficult and expensive.
  • In Out of the Corner of the Eye, Ephraim Waite has been rendered as one of these, attached to a spider-like mech body, by the Mi-Go. He's perfectly content with this.
  • Sonic X: Dark Chaos:
    • Lord Maledict. Despite being a Physical God, he's actually little more than a skull attached to a suit of power armor filled with liquid and rotting organs, and he has to use his powers to make himself look like a hedgehog to others.
    • Maledict's counterpart Allysion is an Altus Emerald in a Jar, holding her ghost inside it.

    Films — Animation 
  • Brain from Igor, though he has wheels and a robot hand so he can move around.
    "Legend has it when the smartest man in the world died, they put his brain in a jar. This is not that brain."
  • The Yolkians from Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius, although they're technically egg yolks in glass egg-shaped capsules.
  • Mok's supercomputer in Rock & Rule looks like one of these, although not quite as easy on the eyes.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Blood Diner: The uncle of the two murderous cannibals masquerading as vegetarian chefs is reduced to one of these (complete with eyeballs). He still orders them around to put together a body for some evil goddess out of all the girls they've killed. We said this was a weird film.
  • The Brain That Wouldn't Die (Actually a head in a pan, but close enough)
  • Uncle Irvin in The City of Lost Children. A Deadpan Snarker Brain in a Jar. With migraines.
  • In the 1960 Mexican science fiction comedy Conquistador De La Luna (Conqueror of the Moon), the "Great Brain of Mars" (don't ask) is literally a giant brain in a jar, with an abstract art depiction of a Martian underneath him, and a voice box and an eye on a stalk to communicate.
  • Donovans Brain, an adaptation of the novel, in which an evil millionaire's life is saved via removing his brain from his crippled body and preserving it in a tank of an electrified saline solution; however, Donovan's evil will allows him to begin remotely controlling the doctor who saved him. In this version, the brain is ultimately destroyed in a house fire.
  • Fiend Without a Face: The titular "fiends" are initially invisible monsters that, when revealed, are actually slimy crawling human brains that brains strangle victims with their spinal cords. While not in jars during the events of the film, one of the "fiend" puppets was displayed in a jar at a movie theater during the film's premiere.
  • In Frankenstein Island, a human brain in a glass dome is essential part of Sheila and Van Helsing's aparatus. It provides the psychic link to Dr. Frankenstein on the other side of the veil, and allows him to provide the psychic energy that keeps Van Helsing alive and powers the army of guard zombies.
  • Another head in a pan (with exposed brain yet!) in The Frozen Dead.
  • Mars Attacks!!: A large, human-like brain in a container is seen on the mothership.
  • RoboCop 2 shows Cain's brain literally in a jar, about to be transferred into a robot. With his eyes still attached, allowing him to see his face that's been cut off of his head.
  • Sharkenstein: The brain and heart of Frankenstein's Monster are both kept in jars full of liquid, with wires plugged into them, until Klaus has Coop, Madge, and Skip help him transplant them into Sharkenstein's body.
  • Star Wars: According to supplemental material, General Grievious is actually a brain (and eyes, plus a few other parts) inside a fully robotic body, which he had to be transferred into after most of his body was ruined in a nearly-fatal shuttle crash.
  • Tammy and the T-Rex: One of the characters ends up as a brain in a pan.
  • Tank Girl: According to one of the animated sequences, Tank Girl's tank is controlled by one of these.
  • They Saved Hitler's Brain: It's right there in the title: Nazis have preserved Hitler's brain in a jar, and are waiting for the right time to resurrect him and, along with him, the Third Reich.
  • The Whisperer in Darkness (2011), in which the alien Mi-Go plant living human brains in cylinders to transport them to other planets, which the human body apparently cannot withstand. The film ends with The Reveal that this happened to Albert Wilmarth himself, and the entire story he's been relating is a holographic projection coming from a brain in a can.
  • Young Frankenstein:
    • Igor was sent to retrieve the brilliant Hans Delbruck's brain from the Brain Depository. Igor drops the jar containing the scientist's brain, and instead takes a different jar marked "ABNORMAL - DO NOT USE". After the monster reveals its true nature, Dr. Frankenstein asks Igor whose brain he put in the body. "Abby someone." "Abby who?" "Abby Normal."
    • In the German-dubbed version, this became: "I took the brain of a cleric, an abbot (Abt)." — "What abbot?" — "Abt Normal." By the way, as he mentions on the DVD, Mel Brooks had Frederick Frankenstein send Igor to fetch Hans Delbruck's brain because that would rhyme with "Mel Brooks' brain". So it is not a reference to the German politician and historian Hans Delbrück (1848-1929), father of the Nobel Prize-winning German-American biophysicist Max Delbrück (1906-1981).

    Gamebooks 
  • One bad ending in the Star Challenge books has this happening to you. Your brain is inserted in an armor by an alien who says that he collects heroes' brains, as they're far easier to maintain.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: The dying Anton Ivanov — an Evil Luddite who dislikes modern technology for being more software than hardware — demands that he not be saved by uploading his brain into an LMD body, saying he would rather die. AIDA complies with his dying wish to the letter. She doesn't touch his brain — she cuts off his head and puts it in a jar where he can control the LMD body remotely. He's a bit pissed upon waking up, but he seemingly gets over it, as by the end of the season he has made dozens of LMDs of himself and his head is controlling them all simultaneously.
  • Alien Worlds (2020): The Terran aliens have developed past the point of needing physical bodies, instead existing as large networks of neural tissue within life-support tanks.
  • Andromeda AIs can't use their Faster-Than-Light Travel, relying on organics to get them to their destination within a century. To get around this, several automated systems are using Wetware CPU systems such as this.
  • DAAS Kapital: The brain of Saint Peter shows up "Felicity", and is promptly corrupted by the All Stars.
  • Doctor Who:
    • The Daleks in general. A Dalek is a cyborg that consists of an extremely reduced cephalopod-like mutant brain (which is actually the remains of their human-like ancestors, the Kaleds) fused to a metallic shell that acts as its body, life support, and combat/travel machine.
    • "The Keys of Marinus" features a race of brains in jars that are enslaving humans by giving them hallucinations of a nicer world than they're really in. Barbara smashes their jars with a stick.
    • Arcturus in "The Curse of Peladon" is a squeaky-voiced brain in a complicated life support system, and a surprisingly effective murderer considering his condition.
    • "The Brain of Morbius" features the titular brain as a miserable, paranoid, suicidal organ who feels that his current existence is A Fate Worse Than Death and continually explains this loudly to the surgeon who put him in this state. It's supposed to be a temporary measure before Morbius can be placed in a body, but he's been stuck in there for years due to a lack of a suitable head donor. Until the Doctor arrives...
    • Lady Cassandra, from "The End of the World" and "New Earth", is a skin trampoline with two eyes and a mouth controlled by her jarred brain. In "New Earth" she transfers herself to living bodies, but this destroys her original brain so she can't go back.
    • "Rise of the Cybermen"/"The Age of Steel": The parallel universe Cybermen are brains transplanted into a mechanical suit of armour. The suit represses the brain's emotions, since the brains otherwise tend to react poorly to being in their jar.
    • In "Last of the Time Lords", the Master conquers the Earth with the help of the Toclafane, an alien race of cyborgs encased in a small, spherical shell. The true identity of the Toclafane is a major plot point (and point of horror): they're the last remnants of humanity from hundreds of trillions of years into the future, who turned themselves into a race of hive-minded, child-like sociopaths in order to survive the heat death of the universe. Why would they slaughter their own ancestors? Because it's FUN!
    • In "The Return of Doctor Mysterio", the alien invasion takes the form of brains in jars seeking human hosts.
  • Lexx. Subverted in that the brains of the former His Divine Shadows somehow don't need jars in order to survive.
  • Mouse (2021): Ba-reum investigates Seo-joon's laboratory and finds human brains still preserved in jars.
  • "Mr. Newman" of the short-lived series Now and Again spent some time as a brain in a jar after getting hit by a train but before getting his new Super Soldier body.
  • In Mystery Science Theater 3000, Brain Guy had his brain in a dish... that his body was carrying. He claimed that his species had evolved beyond the need for a body, despite the obvious helplessness of the exposed organ without a body to carry it around. Several skit gags involved separating his brain from its body or adulterating the brain dish with Mountain Dew or similar to get a funny reaction.
  • Red Dwarf:
    • This is the ultimate fate of Lister in "Out of Time", where the future versions of the main cast visit via a Time Drive that the present versions had only recently found by that point. However this is initially kept a secret from present-day Lister, and present-day Kryten, the Secret-Keeper, is on the point of tears when he finds out, leading Lister to believe that he had been killed instead.
    • Lister also mentioned in "Balance of Power" that his uncle's brain was in a jar and that it was really sad, as he wasn't dead yet.
  • Wonder Woman: In the episode "Gault's Brain", the titular Gault's Brain was a brain-in-a-jar villain with floating eyeballs and telekinesis.

    Music 
  • Country music singer James Bonamy had a song called "Brain in a Jar".
  • One of the tabloid headlines mentioned in "Midnight Star" by "Weird Al" Yankovic is "They're keeping Hitler's brain alive inside a jar".
  • "Lost in the New Real" by Arjen Lucassen ends with this, from the first track to near the end it appears the main character has been brought back to life through mad science, only for the Brain in a Jar reveal during the final track.
  • In the song "Lovecraft in Brooklyn" by the Mountain Goats, the narrator fears that beings from beyond the stars are coming to put our brains in mason jars (a reference to Lovecraft's Mi-Go).
  • "Lucky Day Overture" by Tom Waits from The Black Rider describes several freak show artists with deformities. Tom plays a circus promoter promising "human oddities" among them Hitler's brain.
  • The song "Think Tank" by Consortium of Genius is about several of these.

    Pinballs 
  • Appropriately enough, the Edutainment Game The Brain has a replica of a human brain inside the cabinet.
  • Bally's Xenon depict robots on the playfield with transparent skulls, with their organic-looking brains clearly visible inside.

    Radio 
  • The Big Bad of the BBC series Earthsearch are AN.G.E.L. (Ancillary Guardians of Environment and Life) One and Two, the organic Master Computers of the Challenger, who look like this trope in appearance (at least in the novelisations — in the radio series they're described as two racks of integrated wetware). Unfortunately, such organic computers have a tendency towards megalomania.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Call of Cthulhu: This is the usual fate of anybody who gets on the wrong side of Mi-Go. That's not to say that they did it to you because you pissed them off; that just gets them to kill you. No, they slice out your brain and put it in a jar if they like you. The resulting brain cylinder can survive in Yuggoth's hostile atmosphere and be plugged into external devices allowing it to "see", "hear", and speak, but being sapient fungus monsters with a radically different physiology from humans, Mi-Go don't have the best grasp of human senses.
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • Mind flayers, aka the illithid race, are led by the Elder Brains, gigantic Brains in Jars with psionic powers. These are created from the brains of a few illithids, the first to die in a colony, and others are added to the pool later as members die, as a sort of immortality. They can also do this to mortal brains with particularily interesting thoughts (that aren't eaten). This whole trope is basically their hat.
    • Various undead supplements have provided more normal-sized brains in jars, like here for example.
    • Ravenloft has a brain in a jar, salvaged alive from an accident victim by Dr. Frankenstein Expy, which is a mind-controlling criminal mastermind in Dementlieu.
    • Forgotten Realms: The mind flayers of Oryndoll store many brains of those they think knew too much, alive and available for telepathic probing as a "library". Presumably, their own divine Elder Brain could absorb all this, but then it would be pestered with unimportant questions.
    • Dungeon magazine #44 adventure "Raiders of the Chanth": The Chanth is a giant brain that is the magical combination of the brains of a man, a dwarf, an elf, a halfling, and a thri-kreen. It exists inside a sphere of glass under the effect of a Glassteel spell. It is extremely dangerous due to its extensive psionic powers.
  • Eclipse Phase: Transhuman introduces the Brain Box enhancement, an organic human brain in a box that contains a small life-support system, and which is usually mounted in a robot body. It's favored by characters who like the durability of a synthmorph, but are paranoid about brainhacking or want to use Psychic Powers.
  • Gamma World: Borgs, Permanent Cybernetic Installations and Think Tanks in 1st Edition. Borgs in 2nd Edition.
  • GURPS:
    • The game has a disadvantage called "No Physical Body" which turns you into this. You're immobile, and anybody who interacts with you is likely to recoil in horror. So it kinda sucks, except that it gives you a ton of character points that you can spend on magic/psionic powers or other mental abilities.
    • One of the vignettes in GURPS Magic Items 3 is about a brain trying to hire Humphrey Bogart to find his body.
  • Mutants & Masterminds: First edition, using the META-4 universe, has the Atomic Brain who was a former Manhattan Project researcher whose brain survived the explosion of an experiment. A combination of resentment at Oppenheimer taking credit for the atomic bomb and frustration over a lack of limbs led to the Atomic Brain becoming a supervillain. However, Atomic Brain's... brain... floats above his robotic body.
  • Pathfinder:
    • The adventure module Wake of the Watchers features a "brain archive" containing several of these.
    • Part of the Reign of Winter Adventure Path takes place on Earth circa 1918, where the party will encounter Mk. V tanks driven by implanted human brains.
  • Rifts: Full-conversion Cyborgs are basically brains and a few vital organs wired into a robotic body.
  • Shadow of the Demon Lord: The psionics focussed Brain In A Jar Master Path allows player characters to become one by level 7.
  • Shadowrun
    • Supplement Threats 2, section "Halberstam's Babies". The evil scientist Dr. Halberstam continues his experiments by extracting the brains of children and storing them in containers, then connecting them to the Matrix and training them to be super deckers.
    • Supplement Aztlan:
      • Thomas Roxborough, a major shareholder in Aztecnology, is currently a mass of undifferentiated protoplasm (including his brain). Sort of a "cancer in a jar".
      • Aztechnology is rumored to be working on biocomputers - computers based on human brains floating in a vat of electrolytes.
  • Star Frontiers module SF1 Volturnus, Planet of Mystery. The slavebots in the Sathar Artifact are controlled by a Sathar's brain which is in a large fluid-filled flask. The flask is connected to a radio with wires.

    Web Animation 
  • Lobo (Webseries): One of the prisoners at Oblivion is a brain with spikes in a jar labeled "criminal mind".

    Web Comics 
  • The super-villain Dr. Haynus from Greystone Inn and its sequel comic Evil, Inc. is a disembodied brain in a jar. As he is on top of a living puppy with a mind of his own, Haynus unfortunately feels the humiliation of not having control over its actions: Anyone can get rid of Haynus by simply using a ball or cookies.
  • Girl Genius: Anevka Sturmvoraus is basically one of these, although her container is much larger than a typical jar, and is attached via cables to a robot "clank" through which she can interact with the world. And it is eventually revealed that the brain died long ago and the robot is unknowingly operating itself via the deceased's imprinted personality. Later, the "whole head in a jar" variant is done to a particularly high-ranking Mook so that he can be kept safely alive and in custody while being pumped for information, and references have been made to doing the same to other characters (or inability to do so, owing to the lack of a head). In general, it seems to be a well-known, if maybe not exactly common, practice.
  • In Homestuck, Dave comes across the alchemy combination that makes Dave's Brain In A Jar during his experiments with Item Crafting. It's too expensive for him to make because the organ is virtually inimitable, but he uses the code in alchemy to make the SBAHJifier camera.
  • Adolf Hitler is a brain in a jar in the LEGO photocomic Irregular Webcomic!. At one point he builds a supercomputer out of a bunch of cloned Hitler jar-brains wired together.
  • The entire Baro race from Marooned is brains in jars, uploaded into the Mother Brain upon death.
  • In Minion Comics, Hitler's head is seen in a jar attached to a giant rampaging gorilla.
  • In Narbonic, the Bad Future version of Helen Narbon is one of these and resentful as heck about it. In the finale, as the events that caused this almost come to pass, we learn the reasons for both brain-in-a-jarness and bitterness.
  • In this The Order of the Stick strip, Xykon references Brain in a Jar transformations as a method to avoid death. Though he makes it clear that he wouldn't become one unless he had to.
  • Schlock Mercenary:
    • Just about all of the original Toughs (except Schlock) end up as heads in jars after the 2001 Schlocktoberfest storyline. This gives the frequently disembodied Der Trihs a sense of deja vu.
    • Anyone injured badly enough would end up with their head in a jar and with a few punchlines at their expense (usually by Ennesby, embittered over not having a body in the first place) was a running theme, especially earlier in the comic's run. Full-body regeneration has also been used since as a plot device, as once you get started there's really no need to regenerate a body EXACTLY like your old one. If your vanity or your job demands require a physical upgrade, well, here's your chance! More muscle (Nick), more height (Elf), less fat (Thurl and Xinchub), you can have a whole new you from the shoulders down. Why don't people do it all the time, then? It's expensive.
  • Nick Zerhakker in the spin-off Skin Horse is one of these as well, installed in a V-22 Osprey. As of "The Iron Man" Nick has lost the helicopter but gained a clone of his human body, though he'd come to see his helicopter chassis as his "real body" by then.
  • A Brain in a Jar alien makes an appearance in this Sluggy Freelance strip, with the added twist that the creature's brain is divided into a right and left side, each in separate jars.
  • Spacetrawler: They show up in the spacetrawler construction facility.
  • Supertron: Supertron (actually named Simon)'s father is basically a brain in a jar, which also houses his eyes, intestines, and other organs.

    Web Original 
  • The late Usenet personality Gharlane of Eddore always depicted himself as being a brain in a jar.
  • According to Marshall Brain, we'll likely all choose to be this way in a few decades.
  • The Batteries in The Mercury Men (beings who are in control of the Mercury Men) are brains in jars.
  • Thomas Mallory, a disembodied head that remains alive in the basement of the Miskatonic University after a failed body transplant, and communicates via e-mail with the son of a wealthy farmer and politician from West Africa, but becomes aware of a conspiracy to sabotage his life support. Actually, the entire thing is just an internet-goer messing with a Four One Nine Scammer.
  • SCP Foundation
    • Log of Anomalous Items. One entry is a human brain floating in a vat of nutrient solution. The vat can move around and has a speech synthesizer and a camera. The brain claims itself to be Zargox Quaglofan, a 23rd-century secret agent on a time travel mission to prevent the creation of the Insectoid Empire in 1976.
    • SCP-748 ("Industrial Dissolution"). The SCP-748 facility is controlled by the brain of its creator, which is stored in a vat. Nearby are 200 lobotomized human brains contained in glass cylinders filled with a green liquid. They act as auxiliary memory for the controlling brain.
    • SCP-1637 ("The Army of the Future"). SCP-1637-3B is a warbot that is controlled by an "adult human brain suspended in a translucent green oxygenated protein/glucose soup."
    • SCP-2099 ("Brain in a Jar"). SCP-2099 is the brain of Jeremy Valdez, which floats in a glass jar filled with water, green food coloring, artificial flavoring, sugars, and electrolytes. The Foundation is unsure if that's what's actually keeping Jeremy alive, or if that's what he thought would be aesthetically pleasing. It uses devices (such as a robot and mechanical hands) to manipulate objects.
  • According to Pat R's series of articles on the Final Fantasy series, when an intern suggested the Job System during the development of Final Fantasy III, Hironobu Sakaguchi (the creator of the series) responded by pausing blankly, heaping rewards on him, then chloroforming him and putting his brain in a jar so that Squaresoft would never be without his genius. The article goes on to describe some of the brain's other accomplishments, before its tragic downfall at the hands of the designer of Final Fantasy II.
  • As seen in this ironic Teach the Controversy T-shirt featuring a chipper Walt Disney.
  • Team Four Star revisits the World's Strongest movie from Dragon Ball Z, where it doesn't hurt that having a minimum of visible animation, movement and dialogue, the movie's villain has a serious different character as a confused old scientist who spends most of the production watching Dr. Kochin go about committing horrible, Stupid Evil plans to give him a new body. (He cites the fact that he's "a brain in a jar" to say that he's not the one controlling someone in a fight; Goku just takes this as direct confirmation of villainy — "So you admit it!")
  • In Twig, it's eventually revealed that Jamie's Photographic Memory is actually the result of being an interface for a huge collection of these.
  • Whateley Universe:
    • Not surprisingly, Devisors have done this several times, to themselves or others.
    • While not a Devisor himself, the student Psike, a PDP and one of the senior Bad Seeds in the 2006 stories, was 'rescued' by other students in this manner after an accident destroyed his body. He claims to prefer this, being contemptuous of ordinary 'meat bags', but does decide he needs a human body he can control remotely in order to take care of things his mind control, telekinesis, and sterling personality can't.

    Western Animation 
  • Tactical Commander Owen Negata from Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers. A BETA research scientist and tactician, he was killed in the Supertrooper Riot (though we don't learn this until later). What was left of him can fit into a little jar attached to a 1.5 meter by one meter repulsorlift platform. Zozo is rather shocked by it.
    Zozo: That's Commander Negata?!
    Waldo: His brain unit. His body died years ago.
  • In Buzz Lightyear of Star Command, while the Star Command employs the Little Green Men seen in Toy Story, Zurg's minions are brains in jars (who frequently mention this situation when the boss complains).
  • Big Bad Mother Brain in Captain N: The Game Master, as the name implies, is a giant brain in a jar, with a face.
  • The GoBots in Challenge of the GoBots are brains in cyborg bodies.
  • Count Duckula has The Egg, esentially the bird version of the trope, a supervillain that hates everyone alive as he was never able to hatch. Yes, is a literal egg connected to a machine.
  • DCAU:
    • Mr. Freeze is eventually reduced to this after his condition worsens. He was able to slow it down with the aid of some kidnapped scientists, but by that point, he had already lost everything from the neck down. To make things worse, his condition has also made him The Ageless. By the time of Batman Beyond, he's still alive... as a disembodied head stuck in a glorified meat locker. He's later given a healthy body, but snaps and returns to his villainous ways before dying in one final rampage.
    • The Brain has appeared on Batman: The Brave and the Bold, voiced by Dee Bradley Baker, and Young Justice, voiced by Corey Burton (spouting Gratuitous French in both incarnations).
    Kid Flash: It's the Brain!
    Artemis: Duh, I can see it's a brain.
    Kid Flash: Not a brain; The Brain!
  • Eek! The Cat episode Eek's International Adventures is a spy film parody and features a villain named The Brain, made of a brain, eyes, teeth and an ear in different jars.
  • The Dexter's Laboratory Made-for-TV Movie "Ego Trip" has Mandark turned into a brain in a jar following his defeat by 4 Dexters from different ages... and Dee Dee's intervention.
  • Hector Con Carne's Brain in Evil Con Carne. Variation in that his stomach also is in a jar... and developed its own sentience. And both are occupying the body of a Russian circus bear named Boskov who can still act on his own despite his brain being replaced with Hector's. It's a weird show.
  • The Fairly OddParents: In "Future Lost", the evil brain that aspired to take over had a strange weakness - put juice pills in its tank, and it would get a Brain Freeze. They also dumped some ice into it, making a giant slushie. Also, every Yugopotamian has their brain clearly visible in a glass dome on their heads.
  • Futurama:
    • The show had the heads of various 19th-21st-century personalities preserved in jars, including Richard Nixon, who eventually became president again through Exact Wordsnote . Used more for comedy and satire than creepiness. It was never explained exactly how, say, George Washington's head could have been preserved in the first place. Also, the main antagonists of several episodes are flying brains outside of their jars.
    • Done to an extent in "How Hermes Requisitioned His Groove Back", where Bender's personality and intelligence are downloaded into a floppy disk.
    • Inverted with Earth President Nixon's vice president, Spiro T. Agnew, who is a headless body.
    • They eventually Hand Waved the process as being a form of limited time travel; by incorporating some kind of powdered opal into the fluid heads are kept in, they create a tiny bubble in which the heads are perpetually in the time period during which they were alive. Presumably, a certain amount of cloning is involved for certain heads as well.
  • He-Man and the Masters of the Universe: Modulok tries to do this to Man-At-Arms in "Happy Birthday Roboto", though he's actually using the second head that came with his toy in the episode instead of a jar.
  • There are two on display at the Mystery Shack in Gravity Falls.
  • An episode of Jimmy Two-Shoes had Jimmy and Beezy accidentally knocking the brain out of their favorite soccer player's head. By the end of the episode, Beezy still hasn't given it back, keeping it in a jar among his memorabilia.
  • In The New Adventures of Speed Racer episode "B.O.S.S." the titular computer is revealed to be the disembodied brain of inventor Pavel Masterson.
  • Spoofed in Plastic Man with villain The Clam, is a literal clam that commands an evil organization and needs help for everything.
  • On Rocko's Modern Life, Rocko buys a vacuum cleaner. When he tries to shut it off, a brain under a glass or plastic dome with wires attached to it comes up out of the control panel, and won't allow him to shut it off.
  • In the Sealab 2021 episode "Return to Oblivion", a brain in a jar named J.J. is the head of the company that produces Sealab. He has two other brains in jars to be his yes brains.
  • Mr. Burns in The Simpsons ends up as one of these in "Rosebud", attached to a robot body (but still fond of his teddy bear.)
  • The Brain from the Doom Patrol comics appears as the Big Bad in the last season of Teen Titans (2003). Beast Boy was able to make a pun on The Brain's defeat:
    Beast Boy: Hey, check it out! [flash-freezes The Brain] Brain Freeze!
    [everyone present groans]
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003): After starting out as a human, Baxter Stockman's Serial Prostheses eventually leaves his brain as his only organic part. The Shredder, of all villains, quips that "You should have quit while you were a head." Also, in the Fast Forward episode "The Journal", the turtles read about future events in their lives, including Donatello being reduced to a brain in a jar... with a mask on. The journal is then revealed to be a hoax.
  • In the "Morphic Trilogy" of The Venture Bros. it's revealed that Jonas Venture Sr. was ejected into space during the Gargantua-1 disaster, and the other members of Team Venture put him into a life-prolonging machine he built but were only able to preserve his head after they dropped his frozen body. They thought it didn't work until he revealed himself to be alive by trying to communicate through the VenTech Tower's systems.

    Real Life 
  • Animats or Cultured Neuronal Networks are almost a Real Life version of this trope, almost being that they aren't complete brains (and usually animal neurons).
  • Averted by Mary Roach, author of Stiff, a nonfiction book about cadavers. Investigating the possible fates which await deceased human bodies, Roach considered donating her own to Harvard's medical school, in hopes of becoming a brain in a jar. To her disappointment, she learned that human brains preserved there for medical and scientific research are kept in plastic food containers, which hardly seemed worth it.
  • Dr. Albert Einstein requested in his will that his brain be removed for study and the rest of his body cremated. The brain is currently spread across multiple jars and a few dozen microscope slides.
  • According to the Boltzmann brain hypothesis, if one considers the probability of our current situation as self-aware entities embedded in an organized environment, versus the probability of stand-alone self-aware entities existing in a featureless thermodynamic "soup", then the latter should be vastly more probable than the former if both scenarios are to be created out of random fluctuation. As that is something very Mind Screwy, and even more when one considers the possibility of other universes existing, solutions to that paradox include the possibility of the fabric of the Universe being metastable and degrading after a really very long time, so no Boltzmann brains appearing out of nowhere— same for other universes should they exist.
  • Dr. Robert White's experiments with dogs, rats, and monkeys.
  • Conspiracy theorist Francis E Dec believed that our real brains are in "brain bank cities" on the dark side of the moon and our heads contain only a transmitting device connecting us with them. This is all to enable Gangster Computer God to control us, of course.
  • Number six on Cracked's The 8 Creepiest Places on Earth (Part 4), an abandoned underground Soviet facility beneath Moscow filled with brains in jars, which has virtually no information about it nor any indication as to why it was abandoned in the first place.
    • The website English Russia, who took the pictures used in the article, notes that it was a place to study brains and the nervous system. It was shuttered due to Russia's abysmal economic situation after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The only thing rather ominous about it is that the scientists went to some rather extreme lengths to keep everyone out of there, so much so that no one successfully broke in for upwards of fifteen years. They could have just been trying to assure that their research was found by the right people, though.
  • A functioning brain in a jar would be surprisingly difficult to accomplish in real life, at least without major personality changes — to the point of possibly no longer having a recognizably human outlook — since any number of hormonal and even metabolic functions performed in other parts of the body contribute significantly to brain function.
  • According to a government official who appeared on MythBusters when the boys were testing the "second gunman on the grassy knoll" myth, the National Archives have John F. Kennedy's brain in a jar as evidence from the assassination investigation. Or should we say "had", because according to the same official, the brain has gone missing (apparently the family later buried it with JFK's body).
  • Diogo Alves, a Portuguese Serial Killer, is known for both being the last executed person in Portugal, and for his head being taken for study by a professor of medicine. That head is currently on exhibit at the Anatomical Theater of the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Lisbon.
  • The head of Luigi Lucheni - the assassin of Empress Elisabeth of Austria - sat in the morgue of Geneva (where the crime took place and where Lucheni was imprisoned) from his death by hanging in 1910 to 1986, upon which it was taken to the Museum of Pathology and Anatomy in Vienna, with the condition that it was not to be displayed. It's perfectly preserved in formaldehyde. His head was preserved because, allegedly, experts of the time wanted to study the criminal mind. The modern-day Geneva Morgue, however, was more than happy to be rid of it. He was finally buried in 2000 at the Zentralfriedhof (Central Cemetery) in Vienna, after a long bureaucratic process.
  • A rather horrifying example exists in the case of Staten Island teenager Jesse Shipley, who was killed in a fatal car crash in 2005. Sometime after his death, some of his classmates attended a school field trip to a morgue, where they encountered a brain preserved in a jar labeled with his name. What's worse is that it had been removed without the knowledge or permission of his parents, who later pressed charges. Shipley's body was later disinterred and reburied with the brain.

 
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An inmate at Oblivion is a brain with spikes in a jar.

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