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Genius Serum

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"It is by will alone I set my mind in motion. It is by the juice of Sapho that thoughts acquire speed, the lips acquire stains, stains become a warning. It is by will alone I set my mind in motion."
Mentat Pieter DeViers, Dune (1984)

This is a form of Applied Phlebotinum which gives a character Super-Intelligence by being exposed to it. It could be a literal serum, pills, some kind of device, or even outright supernatural. Often involves LEGO Genetics, or implications that the character is becoming "more evolved" through their increased intelligence. In some cases, the character may become not just smarter, but psychic as well. It may or may not be permanent; if the effects are temporary, overlap with "Flowers for Algernon" Syndrome is possible.

The inverse of Phlebotinum-Induced Stupidity. If there are some nasty side-effects such as insanity or death, it's also a Psycho Serum. Compare Higher Understanding Through Drugs, which is not about increasing one's intelligence as such, but one's insight into "cosmic truths". This applies to human (or at least sentient) beings only—animals being intellectually enhanced is prolific enough to have its own trope in Uplifted Animal.

See also 90% of Your Brain, which may be used as a Hand Wave for how this serum or device works. Compare Super Serum, which covers a wider range of ability enhancements (usually physical, but possibly mental as well).


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    Asian Animation 
  • Happy Heroes: In Season 6 episode 34, being bitten by a Guling lizard causes Big M. to revert to his once-smart self from before he was hit by elevator doors and became his eviler, uglier self, and thus gives him more competence to actually capture the Supermen. Later on, Big M. starts to turn into a lizard himself from the lizard on his head.

    Comic Books 
  • In one Popeye story from the late 1960s or early 1970s, the professor feeds Swee'Pea a special soup that turns him into a Child Prodigy. Swee'Pea builds a giant robot, but demands more soup after being asked what the robot does. After Popeye destroys the robot, the soup's effect wears off and Swee'Pea is no longer a genius.
  • One issue of the Bongo adaptation of The Simpsons has Kang and Kodos plotting a takeover of Earth by using food that splices humans with their DNA. The effects render people geniuses before gradually mutating them into the same species. They're defeated when it's realized that Krusty Burger has the opposite effect, and they're transformed into humanoids dumb enough to be forced into fast food work. The issue ends with a twist that this was plan of a bunch of aliens that resemble Krusty the clown to conquer humanity.
  • A very early issue of Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics) had Tails eat a fruit from Rotor's Tree of Knowledge, instantly gaining a mega-genius intellect. It lasted long enough for him to get a swollen ego and try to take on Robotnik himself. According to Ian Flynn, however, while the boost in knowledge was temporary, the fruit did permanently unlock Tails's own enhanced intelligence, explaining his at the time rather childish depiction suddenly falling into line with the technical genius he was depicted in in the games.
  • In the Spider-Man story "Flowers for Rhino", the dim-witted Rhino is tired of being treated like a joke and undergoes a dangerous surgical procedure to greatly increase his intelligence. He eventually becomes so smart that he thoroughly trounces Spidey in a fight and uses an algorithm to determine his Secret Identity. But he soon begins experiencing Intelligence Equals Isolation as he simply grows bored of everything and can only see the numbers and science behind the world around him instead of enjoying it for what it is. As a result, he ends up getting another surgery to revert his intelligence and make him dumber than he already was.
  • In Italian comic Zannablů and the Intelligence Serum, the protagonist — a Ditz from a village of equally ditzy people — accidentally creates an intelligence-enhancing potion when he tries (and fails) to make tea. Since the potion cannot be remade, this causes a split in the town — should the potion be shared equally, making everyone only slightly smarter, or should it be used to make a few select people into geniuses?

  • Gremlins 2: The New Batch: When the Gremlins raid the science lab in the Clamp building, one of them (later dubbed the "Brain Gremlin") downs an intelligence-enhancing potion. The normal Gremlins were already a lot more cunning than they appeared, not just dumb animals, but it immediately made him both sapient and gave him the ability to speak while retaining his predatory instincts, in effect just creating a psychopathic Gremlin.
  • This is the main plot in Limitless: a normal guy is provided with Phlebotinum Pills that develop more brain cognition which makes the person who take the pills more intelligent. These pills let the guy go to the top of the world, but there he has to struggle with more people who want the pills and trying to hang on with his few doses. The film was so successful that a Sequel Series was made later.
  • Lucy runs with the premise that "unlocking" more percent of your brain will increase your cognitive skills to superhuman levels. One achieves this by ingesting CPH4, a Fantastic Drug which the main character was forced to smuggle by a Korean gangster. Lucy soon acquires Combat Clairvoyance, has perfect memory, takes stock of literally all human knowledge in the world, and ultimately Ascends to a Higher Plane of Existence.
  • Over the course of some potion hijinks that occurs during Scooby-Doo: Monsters Unleashed, one of the potions Scooby ends up consuming over the course of undoing a potion that turns him into a monster turns him into a genius smart enough to subsequently brew up a potion capable of turning both himself and Shaggy (who at this point has ended up consuming a potion that has made him far more muscular than normal) back to normal.

  • Discussed in the children's book Baa Baa Smart Sheep, where a sheep tricks a turkey into eating poop by making him believe that it's really "smarty tablets" that will make him smarter.
  • Captain Underpants and the Wrath of the Wicked Wedgie Woman has George and Harold's school teacher, Ms. Ribble (who they accidently hypnotized to become the titular villain), granted Super-Intelligence when the Super Power Juice ended up poured onto her hair, also soaking into her brain.
  • Sapho Juice from Dune allows specially-trained individuals known as Mentats to think at superhuman levels. As artificial intelligences have been banned for a long time, these people are often used as human computers and given Sapho for the more complicated bits. It's noted for eventually leaving permanent stains on the lips of those who drink it often, marking them as veteran Mentats and thus some of the sharpest intellects in the galaxy.
  • In Flowers for Algernon, the protagonist, Charlie, as well the eponymous lab rat undergo a surgical procedure that turns them from simpletons into geniuses. However, the effects are unfortunately temporary, and Charlie becomes even dumber than before.
  • In Evgeny Filenko's sci-fi series Galactic Consul, the protagonist Konstantin Kratov comes into contact with "RatioGen" — a device designed to exponentially boost the number of neural links in the user's brain (if they have one) and to convert non-brain tissues into neurons (if they don't). Activating RatioGen allows him to manually guide a starship stuck in hyperspace back into real-space, before a built-in safety resets his brain back to regular human capacity. It turns out, the RatioGen technology was banned on Earth, and when a radical group tried smuggling the last remaining device off the planet on Kratov's ship, it was promptly stranded in hyperspace by an alien ambush. Then another Sufficiently Advanced Alien relieves Kratov's crew of RatioGen and of their ship as soon as they make it back to the real-space.
  • The Diadem of Ravenclaw from Harry Potter is supposed to enhance its wearer's creativity and intelligence, as per its creator's favored traits. Would have been a big help to the heroes had Voldemort not stolen it first and turned it into a Horcrux, necessitating its destruction. This is why we can't have nice things people.
  • Diane Duane's Mindblast is centered around a Fantastic Drug which increases one's intelligence... until it kills you, that is.
  • The Brain Fryer from My Teacher Is an Alien was thought to be this when used on Duncan Dougal, so much so Duncan starts to fear this will wear off and he'll go back to being a meathead. Kreeblim insists the machine simply unlocks the potential of one's brain, with the flashes of insight and knowledge simply being him finally applying himself.
  • A version is used by the protagonist in Twig. In low doses, Wyvern increases brain plasticity and liquidity, making it an oft-used study drug and nootropic. In higher doses, Wyvern allows the user to retrain their brain to learn and retain certain qualities at the cost of others.
  • Whateley Universe: Well-Intentioned Extremist supervillain Dr. Diabolik does a brisk black market business in nootropics, most notably Solon-3, Solon-5, and THX-1138. He even went so far as to dose the water supply of Biloxi, MI with the latter, noting that classroom test results in the area improved by 11%.
    • In the story titled 'Evil Genius', the protagonist had been dosed with THX-1157 (a street drug often called either Vulcan or Evil Genius), which was intended as a nootropic but had the unfortunate side effect of temporary psychopathy. Dr. Diabolik is actively trying to track down those who leaked the failed formula.
  • In Xenocide it becomes a major concern of the piqueino species that their intelligence is simply the byproduct of the descoloda virus infecting their world. This especially when the human scientists figure out a way to make a non-lethal version of the virus that would allow the piqueinos to safely leave their potentially doomed planet. Human demands his friends remove the virus from his body, suffering in agony as its loss begins to kill him, but crucially remaining lucid and intelligent all the way to his end, proving the pequeinos are a sapient species in their own right.

    Live-Action TV 
  • An episode of Big Wolf on Campus has Merton invent a serum that'll increase his intelligence that's stolen and drunk by the local bonehead bullies. They become smart enough to conceive a trap for the Pleasantville Werewolf, and nearly succeed.
  • The Doctor Who episode "School Reunion" has the Doctor, Rose and Sarah-Jane investigating a school where the students have suddenly become geniuses, discovering that it's all down to aliens taking over and using a special oil in the cafeteria, in order to use the children to solve a complex physics problem that would let them control the universe.
  • Subverted in It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, when Charlie, known for being the least-intelligent of the main cast, gets involved in an experiment to test an intelligence drug. He suddenly seems to develop extreme intelligence overnight, reading tons of books in all sorts of language despite normally being illiterate, all while also becoming a Jerkass in the process. However, it's then revealed that the drug did nothing- Charlie was under the Placebo Effect, and not only did he not comprehend anything he read or said, but the only real effect it had was making him look down on his friends and family.
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000: In "Mac and Me", Kinga Forrester invents an intelligence-boosting drug named Algernon, appropriately enough. The clone Synthia, who up to this point has behaved like a zombie or malfunctioning robot, is the first test subject, and it actually does make her genius. In fact, it makes her smart enough to realize the litany of horrible side effects from Algernon, and that she'd be better off not taking any more. Synthia goes cold turkey and drops down to average intelligence, which is still an improvement for her.
  • NewsRadio: Matthew was once given a "smart drink" invented by Joe that made him smarter. Unfortunately, Matthew got smart enough to realize that the juice didn't work and he only became smarter due to the Placebo Effect; once he realizes this, he gradually reverts to his ditzy self.
  • Stargate-verse: There's an Ancient device which causes the subject to undergo changes towards ascension, increasing their intelligence and giving them psychic powers. It turned Daniel from someone who's already The Smart Guy to a cold, godlike super-genius who eventually becomes Drunk with Power. For Rodney McKay, it allowed him to make numerous improvements to Atlantis before he discovered that he would die if he didn't stop the process somehow.
  • The Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Spock's Brain" has a Neural Implanting device called "The Teacher". It's a pimped-out crash helmet that can raise the intelligence of a Stripperific bimbo to where she can conduct Organ Theft aboard the Enterprise undetected. The heroes use to this device on Doctor McCoy so that he can reattach Spock's brain to the rest of Spock, but the effect wears off during the surgery.
  • The Suite Life on Deck plays with this idea. For a school project, Bailey decides to test out the Placebo Effect on London and gives her a perfume that London thinks contains "smarticle particles". While using the perfume, London starts to perform better in school and have more confidence in herself academically. Bailey eventually admits to her that the perfume wasn't helping her and that she did it all on her own, but once she knows that she wasn't magically being made smarter, London returned to her normal lack-of-intelligence.

    Religion and Mythology 
  • Norse Mythology had Mimir's Well, which grants knowledge and wisdom to anyone who drinks from it, but at a price. Incidentally, this is why Odin is always depicted with one eye. While the required sacrifice is sometimes omitted, pretty much every depiction of the Well in media tends to retain the intelligence enhancing qualities of its waters.
  • Celtic Mythology has the myth of the Salmon of Wisdom, a pond where salmon live with a magical tree that bears wisdom granting hazelnuts. Sometimes heroes can quest to this pond and either eat a nut before the salmon do, or eat the salmon themselves to gain near prophetic intelligence.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Base Raiders "Boost" is a Super Serum that increases intelligence and has been adapted into a street drug, which dealers often claim is temporary to keep users buying it. However, it's actually permanent, further doses are either placebos or a more mundane drug like cocaine that was mixed in with the first dose.
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • The magic item called the Great Golden Mace of the North raises its wielder's Intelligence by seven points, which would cause a person of average intelligence to become a genius.
    • The Tome of Clear Thought is an enchanted book that, if read, permanently raises the reader's intelligence by 1 to 2 points, depending on the game's edition. The Tome then loses its magic. This isn't much, but it's a permanent, stackable bonus that can raise the character's intelligence score beyond its normal limits.
  • Shadowrun:
    • In 1st and 2nd Edition, an implanted cyberware device called the Encephalon can raise a character's Intelligence by up to two points.
    • The bioware system called the Cerebral Booster can increase the user's Intelligence by up to two points.
    • The Increase Intelligence magic spell can increase the recipient's Intelligence by up to four points.

    Video Games 
  • Deep Rock Galactic has a short-lived example in the form of Smart Stout, one of the special beers you can order at the Abyss Bar. After draining a mug, your dwarf might rattle off some chemistry trivia about various minerals, have an idea on how to make the Drop Pod land right next to the team when it comes time for extraction, realize that Deep Rock Galactic is exploiting its workers, or even figure out where Karl is... only to forget what they were talking about and return to their normal self in a few seconds.
  • The IQ Capsule from EarthBound (1994) raises the IQ points of the character it is used on. At certain IQ levels, Jeff can repair broken gadgets into machines and weapons he can use.
  • Elvira II: Jaws of Cerebus had an intelligence enhancement spell the player could cast on themselves. The in game effect was that any spells the player mixed while under the Brain Boost's influence were themselves rendered more potent or generated more charges to use. Brain Boost itself could only get the latter, preventing it from being enhanced.
  • In the Fallout games, the drug Mentats (yes, named after the human supercomputers from Dune and the mint candy) temporarily increases the user's Intelligence and Perception stats by +2 and their Charisma by +1.

  • In Narbonic, a serum invented by Helen is what gives Artie the gerbil an IQ of 250 (it's not clear if the serum works on anything other than gerbils). However, Artie was also genetically modified to withstand the transformation. When he tries the serum on other gerbils to create companions, they become geniuses but at the cost of progressively deteriorating sanity.
  • The Petri Dish:
    • Thaddeus gives the squirrels some pills that make them as smart as humans. The squirrels then use their newfound intelligence to learn English and make a civilisation. They also end up giving some of the intelligence pills to a bear, who becomes a lawyer.
    • Thaddeus also has some intelligence-enhancing spray that hurts if people are being willfully stupid.

    Web Original 
  • Neopets:
    • Books will always raise your Neopet's IQ and are the main way of raising it.
    • Completing the Fairy Crossword quickly can sometimes make your pets smarter, as can the Wheel of Knowledge.
    • Several potions can make pets smarter, including Elixir of Intellect and the Potion of Telepathy.
    • The Genius Negg is a type of fruit that can make pets smarter.

    Western Animation 
  • The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius had an episode that saw the title character use a helmetnote  to this effect to make Sheen... less Sheen-like. Unfortunately, the enhanced intelligence seemed to sap Sheen's sense of ethics and he went all Evil Overlord on his friends.
  • One of The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle involved finding the Kirwood Derbynote , a hat that made its wearer the smartest fellow on Earth. Idiot Hero Bullwinkle Moose finds it, and discovers that it does indeed make him much smarter, but it also makes his minuscule brain overheat. The moon men Gidney and Cloyd reclaim the chapeau, as it was made for their ruling prince, who's otherwise a clueless goofball like Bullwinkle.
  • Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog: In "Grounder the Genius", Dr. Robotnik's computer program designed to make him a thousand times smarter is stolen by Hacker, an adolescent mole, and downloaded onto a microchip. When Scratch and Grounder are sent to capture Hacker, Grounder accidentally installs the Genius Chip and becomes a genius, making Robotnik his prisoner and Scratch his slave. In the same episode, Hacker is also revealed to have invented a Stupid Chip, which makes whoever uses it only half as smart as they are.
  • Adventure Time: In "The Real You", Finn wants to impress Princess Bubblegum at her Science Barbecue, so after traditional learning methods fail he resorts to bargaining with Choose Goose for "the Glasses of Nerdicon", a pair of glasses that make Finn super-intelligent.
  • The Knowledge Nuts of the Tree of Sagar from Black Star have this temporary effect on anyone who eats one, one of the reasons the Overlord wants the tree.
  • Boy Girl Dog Cat Mouse Cheese: In "Cat Confessions", Cat gets her head stuck in a helmet that increases her intellect (Mouse originally designed it for a fish, but Cat ate it) and makes everyone her servants by threatening to expose their secrets they confesses to her, becoming Drunk with Power. Eventually everyone starts exposing their own secrets so Cat doesn't, causing a huge fight and Cat to regret everything she has done, choosing to take off the helmet and return to her mindless old self.
  • In the DC Super Hero Girls short "#ArtificalIntelligence", Doris Zeul (aka Giganta) accidentally injects herself with a serum that boosts her intellect to genius levels instead of her usual growth serum, utilizing her new smarts against the protagonists. She almost wins until the serum wears off at the last minute, causing Doris to forget how to use her machine and winds up blowing herself up.
  • An episode of DuckTales (1987) featured Neander-duck Bubba, upset that his lack of intelligence made him do stupid things, ask for Gyro Gearloose's help. This resulted in a helmet that turned him genius enough to challenge the mind games of the ancient Thinca Empire, as well as an Aesop about being happy with one's self.
  • In the DuckTales (2017) episode "Double-O-Duck in You Only Crash Twice!", the Third Eye Diamond is a mystical artifact in F.O.W.L.'s possession that is capable of increasing intelligence. Black Heron puts the diamond in a ray gun to test it on some lab animals, inadvertently creating the Rescue Rangers. Launchpad is also struck by the gun's rays, making him smarter. However, Black Heron's true goals is to reverse the effects of the diamond, making anyone shot by the ray stupider instead of smarter, and using it to make Scrooge "dumber than the dummies". So when Steelbeak takes the gun for himself in order to decrease the intelligence of all of Duckburg, Launchpad takes the blast himself, sacrificing his new intelligence and the ability to warn Scrooge of F.O.W.L's return.
  • Futurama:
    • In "Mars University", the Professor invents a hat designed to give genius intellect to a monkey named Gunter. After several Break the Haughty moments, Gunter snaps and runs away, stating he was miserable as a genius and hates being dumb when he's a regular monkey. When the hat gets damaged, it gives him moderate intellect, which he's okay with.
    • In "Parasites Lost", Fry eats an egg salad sandwich containing worms which go on to improve his body, making him stronger and smarter. After a failed attempt by the Planet Express crew to exterminate them because of Leela, Fry chooses to get rid of them himself and return his body to normal in order to find out if Leela truly loved him or the worms.
    • In "Overclockwise", Cubert overclocks Bender's computing systems in order to give him better reflexes for playing video games. Bender then goes on to keep overclocking himself, becoming smarter and able to predict the future. After inserting more processing chips and going into hiding, Bender ascends to a higher level of existence and becomes a near Physical God, but loses all of it after saving the Professor and Cubert from being convicted by Mom for voiding his warranty.
  • Gravity Falls: In the "Little Gift Shop of Horrors" story "Abaconings", Waddles becomes super intelligent from eating a Percepshroom that Dipper found, choosing to pursue the answers to life's questions and problems. He chooses to give up his intellect because his pursuits will not give him any time to spend with Mabel (and he misses getting his tummy rubbed), much to the dismay of Dipper.
  • In Hercules: The Animated Series, Athena has an owl that provides instant genius intellect whoever possesses it. Hercules uses it for his mid-term exams and Ares' dimwitted sons, Fear and Terror, use it to complete their quiz board game.
  • In the Jimmy Two-Shoes "Beezy J. Genius", Heloise builds a machine to increase her intellect after being unable to figure out why gum does not stick to your mouth when you chew it. Due to gum getting stuck in the machine, it affects Beezy (and a random boulder) instead, who not only solves the question, but becomes an Insufferable Genius too. Heloise, Jimmy, and Lucious then plot to turn Beezy back to his idiot self.
  • Kim Possible did this in the episode "Naked Genius", in which Drakken attempts to use a machine called "Project Phoebus" to turn himself into a genius. Naturally, it fails – due to an accident, the one who gains super intelligence instead is Rufus.
  • In an episode of Oscar's Orchestra, the group's Teen Genius invents an intelligence-enhancing gun and explains that the Big Bad hating music is likely a result of his poor intelligence, so making him smarter would solve the problem. They miss and hit the enemy's Dumb Muscle instead, who proceeds to depose his boss and seems to actually appreciate music... And for some reason the group decides to revert the situation back the way it was.
  • In the Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures episode "That Smarts!", Pac ingests a berry that increases his intellect (and turns him into a stereotypical nerd, which Cyli finds cute to square off against Dr. Buttocks in his giant robot). Pac almost wins until the berry wears off and is at a loss for what to do, until he decides that he does not have to be smart in order to save the day and manages to defeat Buttocks in his own way.
  • The Phineas and Ferb episode "Cranius Maximus" sees the titular characters build an intelligence-enhancing helmet for their Bollywood Nerd friend Baljeet at his request. Unfortunately, it also seems to inhibit his morals, seeing as he has no problem creating and using a device that will send Earth's atmosphere to the moon For Science! while wearing it.
  • In one episode of Pinky and the Brain, Brain at one point makes a calculation that shows it's always through Pinky's idiocy that his schemes fail, so he uses an intelligence-enhancing device to make Pinky smarter. Pinky uses this newfound intellect to point out that it's Brain's nonsensical plans that are doomed to fail in the first place.
  • In Regular Show, Rigby once invented a Genius Serum called "RigJuice" in order to get his highschool diploma.
  • In Rick and Morty, this is heavily implied to be the case with Mega Seeds, and that they are the main source for Rick's Super-Intelligence.
  • The Crown of Knowledge from the episode of the same name in She-Ra: Princess of Power is supposed to give its wearer an enhanced intellect. An apprentice butcher kidnaps Kowl to guide him to it because Kowl knows the story of the crown, hoping to escape what he feels is a humdrum life. The Crown is ultimately lost before it can be tested when the pursuing Horde cheat their way past the logic puzzles protecting the artifact's location and cause a cave in.
  • Spliced: In "Outsmartered", Smarty Smarts builds a machine to turn everyone on Keep Away Island as smart as he is, only for it to work too well and make him seem dumber by comparison. After a failed attempt to reverse the process, Smarty Smarts goes back in time to stop himself from building the machine in the first place.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: In "Patrick Smartpants", Patrick becomes an Insufferable Genius from attaching brain coral to his body instead of his head, drawing the annoyance of everyone around him. Miserable from his newfound intelligence, Patrick tries to figure out how he turned so smart and rebuild his friendship with Spongebob.
  • In Static Shock, the residual gas from the Big Bang on Vergil's clothes ends up acting like this to Richie over time, turning him into the super-intelligent Gear. His understanding of math and science becomes so great that he can outdo trained professionals at their specialties and has a nearly technopathic relationship with his robot sidekick, Backpack.
  • Total Drama: In the World Tour episode "Jamaica Me Sweat", Izzy suffers from a case of head trauma which turns her into a super genius dubbed "Brainzilla." By the next episode though she suffers another case of trauma during the Aftermath game she plays which causes her to revert back to her old self.