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Eat Brain for Memories

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"I'm gonna eat your brains and gain your knowledge!"

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 usually be destroyed in the process of eating a brain. Though there are some hypotheses that memory is at least partially stored as chemicals inside the cells, which might survive something's digestive processes; empirical research into this trope has been controversial, with a famous 1955 study on apparent cannibalism-based memory transfer in planarians being a frequent subject of debate among both neurobiologists and microbiologists.

Sub-Trope of Artistic License Biology, 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.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • The demon Nao Shi Gui (Brain-eating Demon) from 33 Eyes is used by Zhou Gui to find a way across the trap-filled dungeon leading to Kunlun... by slowing consuming the brains of the chief abbot to gain access to his memories and know how to navigate the dungeon. Apparently, he needs some time to obtain all the memories he need, and it also depends on the person's brain.
  • Yoma in Claymore normally eat human entrails but can also devour a person's brain to absorb their memories and impersonate them. The impersonation is 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 
  • The Flash: There's at least one version of Gorilla Grodd who does this. In The Black Ring, Lex Luthor uses it against him by allowing him to capture and eat an underling who had been misinformed about Luthor's plans.
  • In ROM: Spaceknight, the female Dire Wraiths could do this via a long prehensile tongue with a sharp spike at the end.
  • According to Alan Moore's take on the character, Swamp Thing came about in a similar fashion. Initially, the story was that Alec Holland had been working on a serum that would cause plants to grow, but was injured in an explosion; affected by the serum and the local flora, he was transformed into a Plant Person. However, when Moore came on the book, he revealed that Holland had actually died instantly, but the swamp, affected by the residual traces of the serum in his system, "ate" Holland's remains and absorbed his memories and personality, then reconstituted him as a living plant that thought it was Alec Holland. The story in which this is revealed directly references the controversial planarian worm study.

    Fan Fiction 
  • Naruto in He Had No Fingers gains access to a person's memories when he eats their brain, which is a big help in interrogations.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Attack of the Crab Monsters: When the Crabs eat someone's brains, that person's consciousness is assimilated into their hivemind and their memories are at the Crabs' disposal.
  • The Brain Bugs in Starship Troopers can eat the brains of humans and implicitly gain their knowledge by doing so, since they were able to set a trap for the humans using their own protocols.
  • 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.
  • 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.

  • In Book of the New Sun, drinking alzabo gland extract then eating human flesh gives its consumer the memories of whoever was eaten.
  • 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.
  • In 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.
  • Phantoms: A gigantic protoplasmic monster consumes human beings and absorbs their memories from their brains. It's theorized by Dr. Flyte and the rest of the protagonists that the reason the Ancient Enemy believes itself to be Devil himself (and thus goes through so many hoops to obtain a "disciple" in Flyte and act so scary) is because of the many humans it absorbed that in their final moments believed it to be something unholy, so it pretty much started to believe its own hype.
  • Dragons in Realm of the Elderlings have a version that goes beyond just brains and is integral to their species. Dragons carry ancestral memories, which are somehow even contained in the cases (like cocoons) serpents build to mature into dragons (and which they eat when they emerge). A dead dragon will be devoured by its mates to pass on the knowledge, and even a human body eaten by a dragon will pass on its memories to the dragon.
  • 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.
  • In Skulduggery Pleasant, the titular character once interrogated a prisoner by convincing them that his friend Tanith Low had the power to do this, and would do so if they refused to talk. Tanith, having not been told of this plan in advance, then had to try and sell the bluff while simultaneously doing her best to keep a straight face.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Ghouls have this ability in The Throne of Bones, often to the point of forgetting their real identities in favor of that of the person consumed. Eating other parts of a corpse has a lesser effect.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Sylar from Heroes can copy other peoples' superpowers by taking their brains. It was left vague what he actually did with them until season 3 when Claire accused him of eating brains and he replies that that's disgusting. It's implied that his original power of understanding how things work lets him copy powers by examining brains, though the crew said he was originally intended to eat them.
  • 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. Hilarity Ensues as she also picks up their quirks and neuroses along the way. This is the case with all zombies, unless they eat a paste made by mixing multiple brains together, which apparently neutralizes the memory and personality transfer.
  • Murphy in Z Nation discovers he can absorb memories by eating brains, be they human or zombie.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Played for Laughs with the "Erudite Zombies" in Die Laughing, where every time they consume brains, the zombies gradually speak in a more British tone of voice.
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • Illithids (aka Mind Flayers) not only need to regularly eat brains to survive, but gain memories, skills, and even class levels from their diet. For this reason, adventurers' brains are considered delicacies due to their interesting experiences.
    • Aboleths get flashes of emotion and fragments of memory from their victims' brains, which they consider the height of the culinary experience.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Warhammer 40,000
    • One of a Space Marine's implants is the Omophagea, a nerve bundle connected to the stomach that allows the Astartes to "read" memories or experiences from what he eats. This can cause problems when other Imperial forces misinterpret the use of this ability as some cannibalistic ritual, or when the implant itself mutates and gives certain Space Marine chapters an unnatural hunger for flesh or blood.
    • Tyranid creatures with feeder tendrils, most famously lictors, use this to gather information in lieu of a conventional interrogation.
  • 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.

    Video Games 
  • In Board Game Online, a player can eat a human brain to learn a new feat and move a few spaces forward.
  • The "Medium?" legacy in Cultist Simulator eventually gains the ability to consume the bodies of the dead to receive their memories. They can use the strongest such memories on their path to ascension, while lesser memories make them money in their Not-So-Phony Psychic routine. This also feeds their Horror Hunger; going too long without doing so has unpleasant consequences.
  • It's implied that the Combine Advisors of Half-Life 2 can do this with their 'tongue' appendage, burrowing into the victim's neck to do... something with their brains. Human brains are far too small to sustain an Advisor, which is the size of a bus, and it's often suspected that what they're really after is information. If true, this makes Eli Vance's death from being brain-sucked by an advisor all the more harrowing — now they know everything. At least until the G-Man's "nudge" in Half-Life: Alyx.
  • 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] and [PROTOTYPE 2] have Mercer and Heller eat entire people, including their brains, in order to assimilate their memories. This is used to learn new skills, such as piloting helicopters, and to understand pieces of Web of Intrigue, linking together the grand conspiracy behind Gentek. It's a plot point the brain must be intact before consumption to gain the knowledge within, so one of Mercer's would-be victims shoots his own brains out first.
  • In Sword of the Stars, Hiver princesses and queens can eat the brains of their deceased subjects and imprint them on new embryos. This allows a form of reincarnation, with the possibility of moving up in the Hive Caste System.

  • In Schlock Mercenary, Carbosilicate Amorphs evolved from an ancient civilization's pseudo-organic memory storage devices; they've developed into Blob Monsters whose entire bodies are brains (and muscle, all at once) and they can exchange memories by breaking off bits of themselves and feeding them to other Amorphs. As cannibalism was the only way for tribal Amorphs to kill one another without plasguns, wars often brought tribes closer together.

    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.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Cerebrophagic Memory, Cannibalistic Memory, Digestive Memory, Phagomemory, Omophagic Memory


"Like a child collects moths."

Dr McMullen realizes that Alex Mercer AKA ZEUS has the power to assimilate knowledge from the minds of everyone he's consumed... hence how Alex gets to hear this conversation in the first place.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (2 votes)

Example of:

Main / EatBrainForMemories

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