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My Brain is Big

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Azmuth: Are you inferring that you're smarter than me because your head is bigger?
Brainstorm: No, I'm implying that I'm smarter than you because my brain is bigger!

What's a fast way to clue the audience into a character's Super-Intelligence, either inborn or suddenly-gained? Why, give them a swollen (and often hairless) cranium, apparently housing a grossly enlarged brain. Variants include the head being fissured like a human brain, or the enlarged brain being exposed. The head may or may not pulsate, sometimes more like a heart than a brain, and the rest of the body be comparatively weak and underdeveloped. Often related to Evolutionary Levels or dubious experiments done For Science! May involve the development of Psychic Powers if it's big enough.

This is also sometimes used as a generic "alien trait" and not a specific indicator of intelligence. The Greys are a prominent example.

While this may seem like Truth in Television, since animals with larger brains do tend to have a higher intellect than those with smaller cerebra, it turns out that intelligence is much more complicated than that (otherwise blue whales, with brains the size of fully-grown adult humans, would be the most intelligent species on the planet while African grey parrots, with brains the size of a walnut, wouldn't be anywhere near as intelligent as dolphins or chimpanzees). Turns out that intelligence is a function not so much of how large an organism's brain is, but how densely interconnected it is. The denser the brain tissue and the more neural pathways within an organism's brain, the higher its intellect. Obviously, however, a larger brain does have more room for such connections, but it's not as straightforward as this trope would have you believe.

See Also Forehead of Doom, which may be used to show this in a more realistic light. May sometimes overlap with Brain Monster if played for horror. No relation to Cranial Eruption.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Berserk: The demonic God Hand member Void has a giant, nightmarish exposed brain coming out of his head. It's not just for show, since he is the oldest, wisest, and most philosophical member of the God Hand as well as their leader.
  • The Digimon Vademon
  • Inverted in Dragon Half: Damaramu has a small brain, making him not too bright. This actually works in his favor when he accidentally sticks his own Laser Blade through his head; his brain only got nicked.
  • Guldo, the psychic member of the Ginyu Force from Dragon Ball Z has a large bulging head. For that matter Ginyu himself has a gigantic veiny head. And turns out to have a psychic ability of his own.
  • Macross: Do You Remember Love? retcons Super Dimension Fortress Macross's Exedore/Exsedol into this, apparently to visually emphasize his role as an archivist and advisor; Macross 7 also uses his DYRL? design (in contrast, the Robotech continuity ignores it in favor of his original SDF design).
  • One Piece: Doctor Vegapunk is considered the smartest man in the world and is responsible for futuristic inventions. His head is normal-sized in the present, but in the past, he had a brain that was four times bigger than the rest of his body, and a giant cranium to match. He states that this is due to him eating the Brain-Brain Fruit, which causes his brain to constantly grow to the point that his true brain is housed in a massive dome.
  • In Zatch Bell! 2, Kanchome learns the Mo Poruku spell which allows him to convert enemies into partial clones of himself that he can manipulate with his mind. It also transforms him into a giant Waddling Head, visually emphasizing how he's got the brains to control multiple kinds of distinct creatures at the same time.

  • Michelangelo Buonarroti's sculpture of David has an unusually large head that emphasizes his focus on the task of defeating Goliath, not by brute force, but with his intelligence and faith.
  • Sistine Chapel: Perhaps to communicate God's omnipotence and reason, God's robes in “The Creation of Adam” appear behind him in a way that they resemble a giant brain.

    Comic Books 
  • The DCU:
    • Batgirl: In The Attack of the Annihilator, the titular villain has an oversized bulbous head, a hint of his fearsome psychic powers.
    • Green Lantern: Hector Hammond's brain is huge — to the point that his neck can't support it. As such, he's confined to a special chair. Over the last few years, he's gone from "unusually large, ovoid head" to "big square head twice the size of the rest of his body."
    • Justice Society of America: The Ultra Humanite's albino gorilla form.
    • The Legion of Super-Heroes guest-star Evolvo Lad (Evolvo in the reboot) has a head that actually gets bigger and smaller when he uses his powers. Does Freud know about this guy?
    • Sinestro: The noblewoman who ordered her personal guard to kill the Yellow Lanterns after they threatened the crowd she was in is from a tall thin species with exceptionally tall heads.
    • Superboy and the Ravers: It turns out the aliens that accidentally killed Byron Stark's whole family look like traditional greys, including the tallish heads.
    • Superman:
    • Teen Titans: Evil telepath and Fearsome Five member Psimon has his exposed brain covered by a clear shell. In Salvation Run, the Joker can't help but smash it.
    • Wonder Woman Vol 1: Professor Andro has a misshapen large cranium and boasts of his various "mento" powers implied to be mental powers tied to his large mind. However, once Wondy catches him, it becomes clear that his human form was just a disguise that he was wearing, as he escapes the body in his true, far more alien crystalline body.
  • Marvel Universe:
  • The Mekon of Mekonta, arch-villain of the British Dan Dare comics (once the page image), specially bred to be his civilization's Supreme Scientist and ruler, exemplifies this trope with his huge head and withered body.
  • An early storyline in Bongo's The Simpsons comics had most of the cast becoming superheroes; Maggie became "Brainbaby".
  • DNAgents villains Ape-X and Doctor Vlasov both had huge craniums; Vlasov's was under a huge glass bubble helmet for full Squicky visibility.
  • E-Man's first foe, The Brain From Sirius, was nothing but a gigantic Brain in a Jar the size of a house!
  • Appropriately, this is the appearance of Veidt's fake alien in Watchmen.
  • One of Charon's "ligis-bearers" in Negation has a big brain. By an amazing coincidence, he's also the team's telepath.
  • Miguel Angel Martin's Brian the Brain is the story of a boy born with a huge, exposed brain. The comic focuses on Brian's sense of alienation and the difficulty of fitting in due to a combination of his high intelligence, Psychic Powers and his peers' reaction to his physical deformity.
  • Zombo: Mr. Critic on the TV satellite has an oversized head because he had his brain replaced with a supercomputer.
  • Zodon from PS238.
  • The cover story in issue 93 of Tales of the Unexpected involved this guy who invented an "evolution-devolution" ray then accidentally got caught in both beams at once, resulting in his head "evolving" into larger and more grotesque versions while his body was "devolving" into that of a prehistoric man/ape/etc. Eventually, his brain became so super-advanced that he was able to repair the broken device telepathically.
  • In All Fall Down, IQ and IQ Squared had extra-large heads while they were super-geniuses. Their craniums were reduced to normal in The Fall.
  • A one-panel graphic joke of "7(th) Rebolling Street", first published in Spanish comic magazine Guai! #81 (1987), depicts a pedestrian whose headtop literally reaches the 2nd floor of the nearby building. He explains he had used a so-called brain development stimulator product.
  • Played straight in Invincible with Angstrom Levy, after an accident left him with brains bulging out of his skull (and two more on his shoulders, though he had those removed with surgery).
  • In Big Bang Comics, the Pantheon of Heroes mirrors the Legion of Super-Heroes; their equivalent of Brainiac 5 is Brain Boy, whose bald head holds a huge brain. Thinking hard enough makes it get even bigger.
  • This happens to Dr. Boifard, one of the two creators of Frank Einstein, aka Mad Man, when he starts using an intelligence increasing drug of his own design. Unfortunately, this ends up in Body Horror levels when his entire head becomes a massive swollen blob of brain-tissue that needs medical technology to preserve his life and which can't communicate with anybody because his body is too weak to use his vocal cords.
  • In Alan Moore's "Abelard Snazz" stories in 2000 AD, Snazz is known as "The Man With The Two-Storey Brain" (also "Multi-Storey Mind" and "Double-Decker Dome"). He does have hair on his enlarged cranium though, as well as Extra Eyes.
  • Squee: Wobbly-Headed Bob's freakishly overdeveloped brain only brings him only sadness and contempt for his fellow beings.
  • Zagor: A Monster of the Week was a wanted criminal known as the "Mutant" because of his oversized, bald cranium and psicokynetic powers. According to the Mutant himself, his cranium is so large because he has a "second brain" which allows him to perform telekinesis.
  • Danger Unlimited: Doc Danger has enhanced intelligence, and his brain grows over time. In the comic book's timeline, he looked normal when he gained his powers in 1959, he had a Forehead of Doom in the mid-sixties, and in the twenty-first century he's a giant head on a mechanical support a la M.O.D.O.K.
  • Suspense: In Issue #14, "Death and Doctor Parker", the far-future humans have gigantic heads mounted on spindly necks and slender bodies, signifying how they're moved as far beyond modern humanity as its has moved beyond its ancestral apes.

    Comic Strips 
  • Calvin and Hobbes: In one arc this is an "unanticipated physiological consequence" of the thinking cap Calvin uses to give himself an intelligence boost. Strangely, this doesn't seem to alarm his parents. Then again, they never notice anything, anyway (it was also probably just his imagination).
  • Dilbert:
    • Dogbert once tried to invoke this. He ended up tying meat to his sides to fake it.
      "This slab of liver has an MBA from Harvard, you pointy-haired fool!"
    • The representative of Mensa is naturally big-brained.
    • And let's not forget Brainella: the reference-librarian whom Dilbert took on a date once.
    • Wally has a dream in which he mocks the Pointy-Haired Boss to his face for urging his staff to "work smarter, not harder." Wally says he never realized he could simply will himself to become smarter. "Watch me add a few brain cells right now," he says, flexing and grunting. His cranium grows, and he's suddenly able to speak Latin. Then he grows his brain some more, and decides he's too smart to work there and should be a consultant instead.
  • The Far Side:
    • One comic had the cops rushing into the villain's headquarters, which had your typical example as well as some huge-bodied, tiny-headed mooks and shouting, "Who's the brains of this operation?" And here it is.
    • In another strip, Larson inverted it, by having a student with a head half the size of everyone else asking to be excused from class because his "brain was full".
    • And in another inversion, a stegosaurus lectures other dinosaurs:
    "The picture's pretty bleak, gentlemen. ... the world's climates are changing, the mammals are taking over, and we all have a brain about the size of a walnut."
  • FoxTrot shows us the dangers of finals week. Bonus points for Jason managing to invoke two more tropes and make a Shout-Out in a single sentence.
    • Parodied in a sequence where Paige lets Jason tutor her in math. Jason shows up wearing an "external brain" hat, much to Paige's annoyance. ("Your brain'll be external, all right...")
  • Drabble: Drabble's father Ralph can't figure out how to turn on their new TV so he starts reading books. As a result his head starts expanding to accommodate his expanding brain. Unfortunately he gets so smart that he learns how to turn on the new TV and he loses his expanded brain/head.
  • A one-panel comic had a Mensa convention with two guys enraptured with a woman's large head, and she is saying "Ahem, guys — my breasts are down here."

    Fan Works 
  • Kitsune: Tome. Highly intelligent, a wizard, a psychic, and having an extra four to six inches of cranium over the normal.

    Films — Animation 
  • Doraemon: Nobita and the Tin Labyrinth: The main villain, Professor Napogistra, has a huge brain that takes up around one-third of his entire body. Justified since his brain is a neural link to his entire robot army.
  • Help! I'm a Fish: Played for horror. In the climax, as Joe drinks more and more of the fish-to-human potion to make himself more intelligent, his brain outgrows his cranium and bursts out of his forehead.
  • The Ice Age Adventures of Buck Wild: Orson's brain is so enormous that it protrudes from the back of his head behind his enormous frill.
  • Megamind: The most obvious outward sign of Megamind's superintelligence is his enromously enlarged cranium.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • This Island Earth:
    • The iconic Metalunan Mutants.
    • Their humanoid masters might also qualify as a more subdued example of the "super-smart" type, or possibly an inversion, as the Mutant didn't seem to be very smart.
  • Invasion of the Saucer Men: The Saucer Men have the bulbous, veiny variety.
  • Mars Attacks!: Explicitly invoked. The Martians have big heads due to their brains. Professor Kessler thinks that they must be peaceful because of their intelligence but is unfortunately proven horribly wrong.
  • Sky High (2005): Dr. Medulla, who teaches Mad Science, has a huge head.
  • Coneheads: The Coneheads are extremely intelligent and have huge heads shaped like cones.
  • The Brain (1969): David Niven plays the role of the master criminal known as "The Brain". While his head isn't any larger than normal, his brain is apparently so heavy that when he is stressed out, his head falls to one side.
  • Joe Dirt: Although we never actually see it, it's the reason for Joe's mullet — his skull is malformed due to a birth defect, leaving a small bit of brain exposed. A hairpiece was used to conceal it, and his soft spot just kind of grew over part of the wig.
  • The Time Machine (2002): Rather than having the usual huge head, the Über-Morlock's brain extends down his neck and lower back.
  • Starship Troopers 3: Marauder: The huge brain bug that takes up an entire planet, "Brain of Brains", also known as "Behemecoatyl".
  • Dementor, the arch-enemy of Turbo Man from Jingle All the Way, whose massive brain can be seen inside his transparent helmet. It's later lampshaded for laughs by Myron, who dresses up as Dementor near the end.
  • Super Mario Bros. (1993) does this both ways on the Devo Machine's monitors: when a humanoid gets devolved into a Goomba, the brain shrinks considerably; when Spike and Iggy get hit with the "Advanced" setting, their brains become larger.

  • Lone Wolf: The Beholder of Yanis in Book 11 has a very frail body and can't move by himself, having to be carried around by a servitor. He's gifted, however, with immense Psychic Powers and has an appropriately over-sized skull to contain his huge brain.

  • Book of Brownies: One of the worlds visited by the brownies is the Land of Clever Folk, led by the Very Wise Man whose brain is several times larger than his head, to signify his intelligence over the other folks. The accompanying illustrations in certain reprints of the book doesn't dissapoint either, with the 1980s version depicting his cranium as watermelon-sized.
  • Debra from Constance Verity Saves the World is the result of Siege Perilous' psychic super-soldier experiments; a blue-skinned woman in a spider-legged chair and a giant head.
  • In Edmond Hamilton's "The Man Who Evolved", a scientist has accelerated his own evolution. Five examples are shown; first a giant human, then two cases of the trope, then a naked brain.
  • Last and First Men:
    • Taken to its logical conclusion where the Fourth human species were basically giant, immobile brains. They were created as the equivalent of computers, and naturally rebelled against their creators. But in an interesting subversion, having wiped out the Third species they realized that their intellectual powers were crippled by the lack of bodies and created a Fifth species that was closer to natural humanity.
    • Earlier in the novel, we meet the Second human species early in their evolution, when they had evolved larger brains than the First Men (that would be us) but unfortunately hadn't yet evolved larger skulls. It basically drove their entire species insane and almost wiped them out, leaving behind only a very twisted literary corpus for future generations.
  • John Carter of Mars:
    • One of the books, Chessmen of Mars, gave us the Kaldanes, who look like oversized heads with crab legs and tend to travel around on rykors, creatures that look like idealized human bodies without heads. The result appears as this trope.
    • In "The Giant of Mars", the novella forming the first half of the final book in the series, this trope is inverted with Pew Mogel, an Evil Genius Artificial Human, who keeps his brain elsewhere and thus has a ridiculously tiny head.
  • Used horrifically in That Hideous Strength, in which the evil scientists have taken the head of an executed criminal and are keeping it alive(-ish) it to channel demonic forces; they've removed the top of the head and its "augmented" brains are bulging out over the top, pulsating under membrane.
  • H. G. Wells favored this trope for his other-worldly creatures:
    • The invading Martians from The War of the Worlds (1898) have huge heads meant to contain extra-large brains. Curiously, the Martians seem to have missed wheels and axles in all their machinery, relying purely on articulated appendages.
    • The Grand Lunar from The First Men in the Moon has a brain so large that it takes up most of the ceiling space in his cathedral-like throne room. Many winged Lunars flutter near it, spraying that giant brain with water to keep it moist. There are also large-brained attendants that memorize facts that the Grand Lunar doesn't need to keep in mind.
    • In an article predating both, Man of the Year Million, he speculated that humanity would eventually evolve to this, with huge brains much bigger than our limbs could support, kept alive by machinery.
  • It's a plot point in Evolution's End, a 1941 short story by Robert Arthur. In a far future, humans have evolved into huge-headed, hyperintelligent and emotionally devoid beings. One of them invents a machine that accelerates evolution, tries it on some volunteers and is horrified to discover that in 100,000 years human brains will grow big enough to collapse under their weight. Also a textbook example of Evolutionary Levels.
  • The Star Wars Expanded Universe has the Columi, a species with giant heads, tiny bodies, and limbs so small and useless they need hoverchairs just to move around. When Columi explorers first reached human-populated worlds, they immediately returned home in disappointment at having found no intelligent life.
  • Jeeves and Wooster: Jeeves's head bulges out slightly at the back, and Bertie believes that this is a sign of his intelligence. He also attributes the size of Sir Roderick Glossop's head, which resembles "the dome of St. Paul's", to his vast intellect: "I suppose he must have taken about a nine or something in hats. Shows what a rotten thing it is to let your brain develop too much."
  • Similarly, in "The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle", Sherlock Holmes deduces that the owner of a certain hat must be an intellectual because his head is bigger than Holmes's.
    "It is a question of cubic capacity. A man with so large a brain must have something in it."
  • Averted in MARZENA — don't go thinking that you can just build up a giant robotic brain and create super-intelligence, warns Anika From Bremen in one of her many scientific proses. Giant brains only mean more coordinations between data; to become more intelligent, one needs to raise the ratio of astroglial cells in the cortex, which doesn't have anything to do with size.
  • Super-mutant Ribald Corello in Perry Rhodan: big head, child-sized body, physically pretty much helpless without his glider chair that's all but a self-contained vehicle complete with life support and weapons, but acknowledged as one of the most powerful psychics mankind ever produced. Starts as a villain obsessed with conquest and his dead-but-preserved mother, but pulls a Heel–Face Turn later.
  • Nocturnomaths in Walter Moers' Zamonia novels are a variation: they have multiple brains, which make them highly intelligent and telepathic to boot. The actual number of brains varies between individuals: three is the norm, but very brilliant nocturnomaths may have four or five, and Professor Abdullah Nightingale — arguably the greatest genius in Zamonian history — is rumored to have seven.
  • In the Revelation Space series, the larger heads of those who've chosen to enhance their intelligence are actually due to the need to cool the faster-running brain, hence a dinosaur-like heat fin on their head.
  • One of the step-capable hominids from The Long Earth series acquires the nickname "lollipops", because their cranial capacity is so great that their heads appear spherical. A subversion, as the creatures aren't any more intellectual than humans, but use the extra brain-power to navigate the Long Earths; also a deconstruction, as it's stated that their females only survive giving birth because they step over to the next parallel world and leave the infant behind, rather than try to expel a huge-headed fetus. In the last book the Next have genetically engineered their own "lollipops", who are extremely intelligent (much more intelligent than regular Next, who are themselves much smarter than regular humans).
  • In The Egg Man, Megabrains like the epynomous Egg Man have been outfitted with massive brains that are too big to fit inside their craniums. They serve as a sort of human computers that host an Artificial Afterlife.
  • Philip K. Dick:
    • In Minority Report (and a few other stories that mention them in passing), precogs are mutant humans with enormous brains and wasted bodies; they, however, have very low intelligence (to the point of not being able to feed themselves) as much of the brain is occupied by an "ESP lobe" that lets them predict the future.
    • In the future Earth of The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, if you want to be smarter, you can actually grow brainier. Special genetic tampering called E Therapy can give anyone a huge frontal lobe.
  • The Secrets of Drearcliff Grange School: In the Purple, where the Unusuals' appearances change to reflect their natures, the psychic Dora Paule appears with an oversize cranium and undersized rest of her body.
  • In The Hampdenshire Wonder, the Child Prodigy Victor's head is so big that during his infancy, everyone who sees him thinks he has hydrocephalus.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the A.N.T. Farm fantasy Halloween episodes, Olive's monstrous form is a mad scientist with a massive bald cranium.
  • Blake's 7. In "Ultraworld", said Planet Ville is a Mechanistic Alien Culture controlled by the Core, a huge brain at its centre.
  • Doctor Who:
    • The Cyber-Controller in the original series has an extended dome rising from its head, highlighting its status as the most intelligent member of the lot.
    • In "Logopolis", the residents of the titular planet have giant brains that protrude out the backs of their heads, and are so intelligent that they've become Reality Warpers purely through an ultra-advanced form of mental mathematics called "block-transfer computation," which they use to keep the universe from being swallowed up by entropy.
    • This is Played for Drama in "Mindwarp". The Mentors are being artificially transformed into more advanced, more intelligent beings by Dr. Crosier, and as a result of this, their leader, Kiv, is on the verge of death thanks to his brain becoming too big for its own skull. The bulk of the plot revolves around Dr. Crosier having to transplant Kiv's brain into another organism with a larger head.
    • In "Daleks in Manhattan"/"Evolution of the Daleks", Dalek Sec becomes a Dalek/Human hybrid with a large exposed brain. In this form, he becomes intelligent enough to realize that the Daleks' violent, ethnonationalist philosophy is ultimately self-defeating, which results in the other Daleks killing him.
    • "Silence in the Library" has the Doctor suggest this trope while he's berating himself for missing a vital piece of information. "Ah! I'm thick! Look at me, I'm old and thick! Head's too full of stuff! I need a bigger head!"
  • This is one of the forms of John Crichton in the Farscape episode "My Three Crichtons". The hyper-evolved future Crichton has a brain that seems to extend beyond his skull. Not the nicest guy, either, but pretty smart.
  • Invoked in an episode of the Honey, I Shrunk the Kids TV series. One of Wayne's inventions gives his son Nick the ability to absorb other people's intelligence, and the extra smarts obviously turn him into an Evil Genius. At a point, Nick reverses his dad's Shrink Ray to enlarge his brain, as he needs extra room for all the stolen brainpower.
  • The Bighead tribe in The Legend of Dick and Dom all have huge heads; their society is ordered by intelligence, and the leader's head is so big he has to have minions supporting it.
  • Lois & Clark has Dr. "Fat Head" Mensa, who uses Ninety Percent of His Brain.
  • "The Sixth Finger" episode of The Outer Limits (1963).
  • Happens temporarily to Xander as the result of a "spell of intelligence" in Power Rangers Mystic Force. It was depicted with a fishlens effect distorting part of the actor's head instead of prosthetics.
  • Parodied with The Head in the sci-fi comedy Quark, the huge-headed alien who gives Quark his assignments. He appears to have no body at all, and frequently complains about the big headaches that accompany being a big thinker.
  • In the Space Cases episode "Both Sides Now", Davenport becomes incredibly intelligent and gains psychic powers after downloading the ship's infocore, which leaves her with a massive swollen (and hairless) cranium.
  • The Asgard from Stargate SG-1.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series
    • The Talosians from the first pilot "The Cage" have very visible bigger brains (with pulsating veins!), which give them great mental power of illusion and mind reading. The effect was enhanced by casting female actors, so their lighter builds would suggest that the Talosians had allowed their bodies to atrophy while instead choosing to concentrate on advanced brain development.
    • In "The Empath", the alien Vians are much more intelligent than Earthlings and have the bulging heads to prove it.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine gives us the (never-seen) Gallamite race, said to possess brains twice the size of humans'. Which are visible through their see-through skulls.
  • A recurring skit on The Tonight Show during Jay Leno 's run was "Mr. Brain", in which Jay would answer audience questions in the character of a very smart person. He was shot with a lens that distorted his head to make it look much bigger.

  • The December 1953 edition of Mechanix Ilustrated magazine. In the article "How Nuclear Radiation Can Change Our Race", Otto Binder speculated that the radiation from a nuclear war might cause mutations that could lead to the creation of a new species, Homo Superior. Among other differences, they would have brains (and heads) 50% larger than a normal human's. See the original article here: page 1, page 2, page 3 and page 4.


    Tabletop Games 
  • Champions: In the adventure V.O.I.C.E. of Doom, the supervillain Le Maistre has a bulging head, is highly intelligent and has psychic powers.
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • Aboleths start out life with brains contained in the usual manner within their craniums, but which include four tendril-like lobules that grow as they accumulate memories and psionic power, eventually extending internally from gaps in the back of the aboleth's skull all the way to the base of the tail.
    • Cerebreliths are psionic demons whose powerful Psychic Powers are fueled by enormously overgrown brains. A cerebrelith's cranium extends backwards and fuses with its spine, with the brain within it visible through gaps between vertebrae and stretching well into the creature's hunched back.
  • Ghostbusters: In the RPG adventure Hot Rods of the Gods, if a Ghostbusters fires his proton pack at Meera at the same time as Meera shoots at him with the red devolvo ray, it will reverse the polarity, causing the Ghostbuster to evolve into a superior being with increased intelligence and a large head.
  • GURPS: Using Brain Tissue Grafts from the Bio-Tech sourcebook to increase your intelligence has the side effect of giving you a bulgy forehead. For a more cinematic option, there's the Genius Machine in Warehouse 23; the higher setting replaces the user's cranium with a big transparent dome, giving others a good view of his pulsating rebuilt brain.
  • Pathfinder and Starfinder have a species (playable in the latter) called contemplatives, whose body mass is roughly 90% gray matter, causing them to resemble nothing so much as giant, floating brains attached to vestigial bodies.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • This is very common among psychic Tyranid organisms:
      • Maleceptors are psychic powerhouses used to overwhelm foes with raw Warp-power. To aid in this, they are implanted with enormous masses of neural tissue in their torsos that can be seen poking through holes in the chitin on their sides.
      • Zoanthropes have stunted bodies with tiny vestigial limbs and a xenomorph-like head with extra brain sticking out the back. They use their psychic powers to float around and act as psionic artillery.
      • A Genestealer Patriarch's brain and cranium become visibly engorged and distended as its telepathic powers grow.
    • Double Subverted with the Orks. Their brains are bigger but they are less intelligent than humans. However, the larger ones are more intelligent than the smaller ones.

    Video Games 
  • Mad Rocket Slave "Grosshirn der Krankheit" from 1917 - The Alien Invasion DX, an alien giant whose forehead takes up most of his body. Fittingly he can use Psychic Powers to spam projectiles as a boss.
  • Blitzkreig from Freedom Force vs The Third Reich not only has pulsing veins across his head, they glow due to his Psychic Powers.
  • The Psilons (no relation) from the Master of Orion series.
  • Averted in the Resident Evil series. Lickers have a large, exposed brain but while they're more intelligent than the zombies they were made from (to the point where they can follow orders), this isn't saying much.
  • Doom has the Spider Mastermind who is a giant brain with a face in a spider-shaped cybernetic body with an infinite ammo. In Doom (2016), the Big Bad of the game wishes for power and becomes the new Spider Mastermind. Her children, the Arachnotrons, who are common enemies in Doom II, Doom 64 and Doom Eternal, are also literal big brains in a spider-shaped cybernetic body, even if they use a plasma gun instead.
  • The BFB from MDK2.
  • Two of the cosmetic head items for the Engineer in Team Fortress 2 are a large, bulging Frankenstein Monster-style head, and a hairstyle which exposes his brain connected to machines and valves.
  • Metroid has Mother Brain, who is the leader of the Space Pirates in the installments where she shows up, and she's a giant Brain in a Jar.
  • The Elderjel from Monster Sanctuary is a giant jellyfish whose brain takes up most of its body. It's certainly an intelligent species, because they ruled over the Earth's oceans in prehistoric times and created multiple species to do their bidding.
  • Dr. Brain from Not Dying Today, whose enlarged brain protrudes out of his skull and is encased in a glass dome. Taken even further when he went One-Winged Angel, turning into a brain monster inside a forcefield bubble.
  • Ratchet & Clank:
    • Dr. Nefarious, before he was a robot, at least.
    • Also, the Terachnoids from Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time ... Who actually have multiple brains. They've been voted smartest race in the universe for 3,000 years, and weakest race for 4,000 years.
    • The B2 Brawler and Scorpio are giant robots with giant organic brains inside.
  • Half-Life: Played with in regards to the Nihilanth and its lesser cousins the Alien Controllers: they have disproportionately large heads and great psychic abilities, but whatever that organ is, it's probably not where they keep their brains. Their heads are capable of opening up like a fleshy flower and inside is a glowing orange crystal rather than brain matter.
  • Heimerdinger in League of Legends has this in quite ridiculous proportion since he is a very small humanoid with a very large brain.
  • Dr. Edgar George Zomboss in Plants vs. Zombies has a massive brain.
  • In Pajama Sam: No Need to Hide When It's Dark Outside, the titular Sam can mix up some chemicals to create a potion that increases his intelligence - and his brain size, to the point that it weighs too much for him to lift his head from the table.
  • Crash Bandicoot: Dr. Neo Cortex and Dr. Nitrus Brio have large heads, according to Cortex's model sheet his giant head was supposed to signify his intelligence and was inspired by the Brain of Pinky and the Brain in Western animation below.
  • Star Fox 64: "Only I have the brains to rule Lylat!" says Andross after assuming his giant brain form.
  • Planescape: Torment: Cranium rats have large brains partly sticking out of their skulls. They also form psychic networks when near each other. One of the sort-of Big Bads of the game is a colony of THOUSANDS of these rats, aptly named "Many as One."
  • XCOM: Enemy Unknown: You can tell a Sectoid Commander from a regular Sectoid by looking for the following traits: 1) Their skins has an orange tint, rather than dull gray. 2) Their cranium is significantly larger. 3) They know psionics.
  • Legacy of Kain: Nupraptor the Mentalist has a large, green, pulsating brain. This is a fitting trait for the corrupted Guardian of the Pillar of the Mind.
  • The Secret World: Jung sports a highly-domed skull to match his intellect and psychic ability. Of course, given how readily people bullied him about it in the past, he's very sensitive about people staring at it.
  • Endless Space: Horatio was born like this, with an oddly elongated head of the sort usually seen for this trope. While it's only addressed as leading to bullying and thus Horatio going mad and getting a galaxy-shattering, fill-all-worlds-with-clones-of-myself-sized ego, it's implied his brain is huge still; despite all the weird looks and discrimination, he's both a cloning genius and a Self-Made Man trillionaire.
  • Pokémon Uranium: The fishlike Pokémon Brailip and Brainoar are noted for their intelligence and Psychic Powers, and have giant exposed brains to match.
  • Kirby and the Forgotten Land: The Big Bad, Fecto Forgo, is an eldritch, psychic alien, and they resemble a gigantic embryonic rat with a brain that takes up most of their body.
  • Wildcat Gun Machine has the Unthinkable Horror, a giant monster whose brain is growing outside it's head and takes up more than half it's upper body. Said brain grants it Psychic Powers to attack you with.

    Web Animation 
  • In Bravest Warriors, Mr. Tezuka has a transparent cranium that allows everyone to see his brain.

  • Girl Genius: Kleegon the Battlemaster, a project of the defeated Spark the Count of the Iron Ski who now works for the Baron, has had the top of his head removed and replaced with a foot tall cask to make room for his extra grey matter. His eyes were part of the lost bit and have been replaced by a single centered red one.
  • Parodied in Mob Psycho 100, where a powerful telekinetic with a ridiculously tall Beehive Hairdo shows up and some characters assume he's hiding a huge brain under it. Turns out he's just wearing a wig.
  • Parodied in this Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal strip. The big brain is only good if the useful parts get bigger. Although it can still have other uses.
  • The "Brain Digbot" from Sluggy Freelance is designed to look like the lobes of the brain, even though, as a robot, there'd be no reason for it to have a human-like brain.

    Web Original 
  • French Baguette Intelligence: In ''Another Typical French vs English Debate, when Bowl brags about the average IQ in the UK being 'one mighty point above France's', the size of his head increases as he says 'U.K is Big Brain, FC. BIG BRAIN.'.
  • Mortasheen:
    • Subverted with the Abcoulix, which has a giant brain not for purposes of intelligence, but rather for the purpose of generating electricity, as the Abcoulix was designed as an organic battery.
    • This is played straight, however, for Krankenhyde.
    • Drane, The Smart Gal of the elite mercenary known as the Boo Men, has a towering veiny head presumably hosting an enormous brain.
  • Several memes are based around this, including Yeah, this is big brain time, Galaxy Brain, and TFW too intelligent.
  • Orion's Arm: Invoked by the Highbrows, a super-intelligent Human Subspecies genetically engineered to have massive brains, as well serious body plans and metabolism upgrades to sustain their brains' energy consumption. They are thought to have originated as a joke since, in the Orion's Arm universe, biological brains are much less efficient than AI and nanotechnology for obtaining superintelligence. However, they have since become a statement on how biological intelligence still has untapped potential.
  • Whateley Universe: Mephisto uses the Cosmic Crystal to become 'Cerebrex, Master of the Mind', and over time his body dwindled as his brain continued to grow. Or so it seemed: true to his usual modus operandi, it was all done through a mix of The Power of Acting, his advanced mental training, and the illusion-casting powers of the crystal, starting with an oversized costume headpiece (which hid a Ray Gun), and later using an animatronic drone to allow him to be somewhere else entirely while the heroes were occupied. While the original goal was to get the heroes to take him seriously as a villain again after his long trek through skid row (he couldn't be much of a distraction if he weren't dangerous, after all), but when he realized how ridiculous the new generation of superheroes and supervillains were in the 1960s, he decided to just keep the trick rolling so he wouldn't have to personally put up with them as often.

    Western Animation 
  • Happens to Dagget in The Angry Beavers after ingesting a potion that was supposed to make him stupider. It didn't work because he was ''already'' pretty stupid to begin with.
  • An episode of Aqua Teen Hunger Force revolves around the Aqua Teens' attempts to defeat Wayne "The Brain" McClain in a sports bar trivia contest. Results in My Skull Runneth Over.
  • The Leader from The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes, much like his comic book version. Notably, in his first appearance he's exposed to gamma radiation at the moment of his defeat, enlarging his brain further to the point he can't stand up.
  • Beavis and Butt-Head: In one episode, a student is conducting an experiment to try and make himself smarter. It seems to be working at first, as his head swells up, invoking this trope. This backfires though when the computer program he is using to conduct the process is shut off midway through, causing his head to deflate and for him to be reduced to a braindead idiot who thinks the capital of France is Jupiter and 1 + 1 = 37.
  • Ben 10:
    • The super-intelligent Omnitrix aliens Grey Matter and Brainstorm respectively, have proportionally larger heads than Ben's other forms. Brainstorm can actually open the top of his head to shoot lightning from his brain as his main mode of attack, and its brain makes up something like 90% of its body.
    • Fridge Logic actually makes Grey Matter more of an inversion: his eyeballs are so huge in comparison to the rest of his face that there can't be that much room for a brain left over. Ben as Brainstorm lampshades this when he implies that he's smarter than Azmuth due to his brain being bigger (which isn't much of an achievement considering Galvans are 5 inches tall on average).
  • A few episodes of Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot had a scientist testing his mind reading machine on a dangerous setting that spider got into. This mutated him into a big headed spider-like monster driven to vampirize the intelligence of other scientists. With each brain that he absorbed, his head got bigger. Apparently this became a permanent effect of the machine, as a later episode had Dr. Donovan's nephew exposed to it and, although his mutation was far less conspicuous, still gave him the same proboscis and drive to vampirize intellect, his head growing bigger with each feeding.
  • Biker Mice from Mars:
    • Lawrence Limburger's Mad Scientist lackey Dr. Karbunkle had a large head to indicate his intelligence.
    • In "Last Stand at the Last Chance", the Monster of the Week is Cat Scan, a felinoid alien with mental abilities who also has a large and exposed brain.
  • Bump in the Night featured a pair of aliens named Sleemoth and Gloog as minor recurring villains. Both of them had visible brains and Sleemoth, the one with the larger brain, was fittingly the more intelligent of the pair. "Comfort Schmumfort" even had Sleemoth enlarge his own brain to make himself smarter, but this led to his undoing when Molly Coddle defeated him by making his brain so large that it exploded.
  • Captain Sturdy featured a highly intelligent superhero with an enormous brain named Cerebro.
  • Occurs in one episode of CatDog where Dog becomes super-intelligent. And Cat's brain shrinks to compensate.
  • The titular Chowder after an overdose of Brain Grub. It even stretched out his hat!
  • Dr. Badvibes from C.O.P.S. (1988) has a clear dome over the (missing) top of his head, allowing everyone to see his brain.
  • Invoked in Dawn of the Croods, where Grug gets bitten in the head by a spider-ant, causing his head to swell up leading everyone to assume he is the smartest person around and turn to him to advice, but his advice is still fairly terrible.
  • Dexter's Laboratory:
    • Dexter is a genius whose head is huge compared to the rest of his body. In a musical retelling of his birth, his father worries he has some sort of birth defect, but the doctors assure him Dexter isn't only fine, they diagnose him as "clinically genius".
    • His rival Mandark also has a proportionally enormous head, except emphasized by a very slim body instead of a short one.
    • In one dream sequence, Dexter gets so smart his brain starts expanding outside of his head.
  • Happens to Skeeter during an Imagine Spot in "Doug's Brainy Buddy" because Doug didn't understand any of his attempt to explain Kant's A Critique of Pure Reason, and also it never occurred to him (or anyone else) that Skeeter was that smart.
  • The Neo Mega sub-brood of Neosapiens in Exo Squad.
  • Yugopotamians on The Fairly OddParents!, of the "generic alien" variety.
  • Family Guy: Stewie is a Brainy Baby and has a noticeably swollen head (both literally and figuratively).
    Stewie: I say, it appears my cranium has doubled in size!
    • Another one:
      Stewie: Good lord, Lois, either I was a C-section or you're Wonder Woman.
  • Freakazoid!:
    • The Lobe.
    • Also subverted by Mo-Ron, an alien who turns out to be a (literally) fat-headed imbecile.
  • Futurama:
    • Morbo is likely a parody of the "generic alien" version, although his head is shown inflating and deflating in hot weather...
    • Also from Futurama: "Our calculations are always correct, for we are gigantic brains."
    • And again: Braino, from Professor Farnsworth's collection of busts of great geniuses.
  • In The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy, the class has a report due the next day, and the excessive research causes everyone's brain to engorge as a result... everyone that is, except for Billy, who procrastinated the entire evening and never finished his report.
  • Invader Zim:
  • Men in Black: The Series:
  • Professor Zygote of Mighty Max evolved himself into an example of this trope.
  • The titular superhero team made up of racial stereotypes in Minoriteam is led by Dr. Wang, Chinese Human Calculator. Dr. Wang has a high forehead, both because he's the brains of Minoriteam and to underscore the fact that he represents the stereotype of Asians being highly intelligent.
  • In The Penguins of Madagascar, Kowalski invents a device to make himself smarter, and it gives him an inflated cranium. Unfortunately, not only is the effect temporary, it actually deflates his head entirely, leaving him a dimwitted pinhead.
  • In Phineas and Ferb Hawaiian Vacation, Doofenshmirtz turns his De-Evolution-Inator into an Evolution-Inator and uses it on himself, causing his head to grow so huge he falls over under its weight.
    • In "Cranius Maximus", Baljeet wears a thinking cap that increases his intelligence. When the cap comes off, his brain has grown to a huge size (although it returns to normal in a few seconds).
      Buford: Oh! Oh! Oh, that is so gross! But it's kind of awesome...
  • The Brain and Snowball from Pinky and the Brain have giant foreheads to show their intelligence, though Brain's is a slightly less extreme design than most.
  • Mojo Jojo from The Powerpuff Girls is a super-intelligent chimpanzee who can speak. He was originally a normal baby chimp until a lab accident caused his brain to grow. He keeps it under a dome-shaped hat most of the time.
  • Brainchild on The Ren & Stimpy Show.
  • The evolved mice from The Itchy & Scratchy Show episode "Planet of the Aches", in The Simpsons.
  • Cybron from Skysurfer Strike Force complete with glass dome head. Only the brain is cybernetic and stolen from his old job, an A.I. lab.
  • In South Park, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is portrayed as a Talosian from Star Trek whose gigantic pulsating brain allows him to communicate through telepathy.
  • Super Chicken had a villain like this called the Noodle; when he had to think of a plan, he'd "use his noodle".
  • Superfriends:
    • 1973/74 episode "The Menace of the White Dwarf". The brilliant scientist supervillain Raven has an enlarged bald skull.
    • In one episode a scientist turns himself into a megalomaniac "man of the future" complete with swollen bald head. He also zaps Wonder Woman with the device and she becomes his accomplice.
  • Charles/Brainchild from The Tick. He replaced his normal skull with a transparent dome so that everyone can see he has a big brain just by looking at him.
  • Totally Spies!:
    • One plot involved the villain transmitting the intelligence of Nobel Prize winners into his son. The results?
    • Also the villain Margie, who had the intelligence of several geniuses transferred into her brain. But we don't see it because she keeps it hidden under a Beehive Hairdo.
  • T.U.F.F. Puppy villain Bird Brain is a highly intelligent avian with an enormous cranium.
  • The Venture Bros.:
    • The supervillain Brainulo.
    • Master Billy Quizboy is a subversion. While he constantly refers to himself as a "Boy Genius" and credits his intelligence to his overly large head, he's really a middle-aged little person with hydrocephaly. In all fairness, though, he's a competent surgeon and good with mechanical prosthetics.
    • Guild villain Think Tank appears for one episode of season 6. When out of his Tank he has trouble standing. Clearly a parody of MODOK.
  • The titular character of Whatever Happened to... Robot Jones? is very intelligent and has a huge round lightbulb in his head for a brain.

    Real Life 
  • This has been the cause of much dispute among the scientific community about whether or not size really does matter. On one hand humans have a larger brain than most of the world's creatures, then again, so do sperm whales and elephants.note  Then again, Whales and Elephants are hardly stupid.
  • Subverted by Neanderthals: While they had a brain size comparable and even slightly larger than those of modern humans, the shape of the skull was significantly lower than ours, and the visual effect was the opposite of this trope.
    • Ironically, what seems to have made the difference in the 'Homo Sapiens vs Neanderthal brainoff' wasn't quantitative, but qualitative. A dip in the brain pan directly below what we term the language center of the brain allowed us to develop linguistic thought; a new mode of abstract thinking that allowed unprecedented levels of communication, and lead to the development of writing. Writing itself was revolutionary simply because it makes knowledge and experience cumulative rather than transitory. Rather than expiring with an individual's death, knowledge could begin to accrue. It could easily be argued that said tiny dip ultimately lead to the creation of human civilization.
  • An old theory credits this trope with why the Industrial Revolution occurred in Europe. Since Europeans are outsized by the Xhosa, Buryats, Iroquois, Eskimos, and Mongols, it's obviously long since been discredited.
  • The Corvidae (crows and ravens) have brains the size of a walnut, yet are almost as intelligent as the great apes. Which just shows that the Brain/Body ratio is a lot less reliable when applied to non-mammals. (Also, why you shouldn't say "bird brain" to mean "stupid".) Birds use different brain regions for "thinking" than other creatures, so you really can't judge them by the size of their frontal lobes.
    • The brain has to process the sensory input from the whole body, and elaborate an appropriate motor response. Seeing that cell size and cerebral cortex structure don't change with body size, and that larger animals have quite a bunch more of sensorial structures; the brain has to be larger and with an even more folded surface just to process the incoming information. Doesn't take away the fact that Hominids, Elephantids, Delphinids or Corvids have larger than expected brains and extensive processing areas.
    • And this doesn't even get into animals which use a distributed intelligence. For example: the Octopus’s brain to body ratio is fairly standard but unlike most vertebrates, a good portion of its nervous system outside the brain pulls double duty in thinking. In other words, its brain is very big because most of its body is part brain.
  • This is often a consequence of hydrocephalus, which is caused by cerebrospinal fluid being prevented from draining out of the brain. This enlarges the ventricles that normally hold the fluid and pushes the rest of the brain outwards. If it occurs during development, the skull enlarges to accommodate the larger brain. However, the buildup of pressure actually compresses the brain tissue and in severe cases can cause mental retardation.
  • Conan O'Brien, who self-deprecatingly refers to his "big fat Irish head", studied history at Harvard and wrote a thesis on the use of children as symbols in the works of William Faulkner and Flannery O'Connor.
  • In his book The Dragons Of Eden, Carl Sagan notes that the species with large brain-mass to body-mass ratios tend to be those that most biologists think of as the most intelligent. Then again, this is based on subjective perception (scientists still disagree about how to measure animal intelligence), so another possible interpretation is that humans are subconsciously Wrong Genre Savvy.
  • Research has shown that autistics can have as many as 60% more neurons in their brains than most people. A major theory is that the "pruning" of excess neurons that normally occurs in development around age 2 or 3, either doesn't happen or happens less with autistic children, leading to excessive sensory input and less ability to process and organize it, thus causing problems with social situations. Conversely, autists can capitalize on the increased neuronal connections to perform tasks demanding high levels of intelligence and/or concentration.
  • In one case where having a big brain is a bad thing, a genetic defect in approximately a third of Cavalier King Charles Spaniels causes them to have skulls that are too small for their brains.
  • To an extent, a big brain helps a species of smaller mammals (below 10 kg or so) avoid extinction when the environment changes, according to a study reported in an article in Nature.
  • One author — Dougal Dixon? — suggested that could be the future of our species: a huge brain, so big that it would not be surrounded by the skull, and one small — in comparison — undeveloped body, with thin limbs.


Video Example(s):


Mojo's Monkeys

Using Chemical X, the source of his own evolutionary transformation, Mojo Jojo turns a bunch of normal everyday monkeys stolen from the zoo into his own army of evil super genius simians.

How well does it match the trope?

4.96 (23 votes)

Example of:

Main / UpliftedAnimal

Media sources: