Follow TV Tropes


Neural Implanting

Go To

Neo: Can you fly that thing?
Trinity: Not yet.

A trope where computer files, images, databases, objects or abilities are downloaded into a person's brain. Powers as Programs, Exposition Beam, Fake Memories, Upgrade Artifact, Amplifier Artifact, and Neuro-Vault are fond of using this. Brain Uploading may result in this later on, but not always. May cause My Skull Runneth Over.

Brain/Computer Interface and Electronic Telepathy are possible means to perform this.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • An odd version of this trope is applied in Doraemon. Nobita doesn't like to study, so Doraemon provides Nobita with "ankipan", a special form of bread that can be pressed into a book, the book's information copied to the bread, and then after eating the bread Nobita would remember everything printed on it.
  • One side-character mage in Fairy Tail has this ability — he's not much good in a fight but marvelous at directing it, as he can download skills and even maps with waypoints into people's heads from a distance.
  • In Ghost in the Shell, large amounts of the populace of developed nations have cybernetically augmented brains, allowing them to read and execute files, including fire-control software, text documents, images, videos, emotions, memories, and computer viruses. One notable instance has a character theorize a cyborg is downloading fire-control software in the middle of a fight, implying that doing so is a fairly common occurrence.
  • Gunslinger Girl: When Petra first wakes up at the Social Welfare Agency, she can speak Italian (despite being Russian) and has a detailed knowledge of firearms. Flashbacks show that the other girls have similar knowledge, being able to fieldstrip weapons despite being children (though they still need The Handler to train them in how to use the weapons effectively). In fact, they take a while to develop their own personalities because it's the only knowledge they have due to any memory of their past lives being removed.

    Comic Books 
  • The Justice League of America villain Prometheus invented a helmet that allows him to download into his mind the skills and abilities of anyone he has on record, as well as any knowledge he requires. He usually shows this off by beating The DCU's greatest martial artists (like Batman and Lady Shiva) by downloading their own skills and predicting their every move, while using another fighter's skills to do the job. Batman beat him by reprogramming the helmet with the fighting ability of Stephen Hawking. It also failed miserably when he tries it on Captain America in JLA/Avengers, whose reaction is to perform a quick Sherlock Scan on him, then beat the crap out of him with his shield.
  • Low-Life's Dirty Frank did this once to gain musical ability in order to infiltrate a rock band.
  • In ManTech, the ancients' "knowledge ray" filled Jaxon and Tyrannik's minds with forgotten information about robotics. Sadly, the experience drove Tyrannik mad.

    Fan Works 
  • When Maxwell summons something in The Boy with the Magic Notebook that he or someone else doesn't know how to use, this trope happens the instant they put their hands on the item. Word of God says they don't become perfect masters of the item in question, but they do easily fall in the 80th percentile.
  • Dungeon Keeper Ami: Queen Metallia beams a spell to retrieve youma from Eternal Sleep into Ami's mind.
  • Plays an important plot-role in Kitsune no Ken: Fist of the Fox. Specifically, this is how the nine people who would later become the Kyuushingai got their advanced intelligence. According to Naruto, by using technology geared toward this trope, the scientists who worked on the nine were able to cram ten years' worth of training into four months' time, and they were able to learn several languages, combat tactics and weapons skills by this method. However, in a variation of this trope, they had to actually practice their newly-gotten skills in order for the information to stick.
  • Elspeth (Bella's daughter) in Luminosity: Radiance has the ability to replay her memories to anyone she touches. This later becomes more useful as she is blasted with the memories of hundreds of vampires, who each had thousands of years of experience.
  • In Mass Effect: End of Days, most of humanity uses neural links, which allows them to "communicate" with their technology, as well as directly connecting to the Vision, the synthetic partner race they made.
  • Oversaturated World: In Sailor Orbital, Ditzy gets something beamed into her mind by Kikai No Kawa, and Kikai gets the wranglish language beamed into her mind.
  • The Genomorphs in With This Ring are capable of telepathically copying large amounts of knowledge from one mind to another and integrating it as if it were learned naturally (or even better). In the Paragon timeline, Zatanna uses them to get an instant high school education and test out, while the Renegade uses them to easily pass the exam for a government-run superhero training and qualification program (as well as up-skilling several of his allies).

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Catherine, the protagonist of Black Cat, was bestowed enhanced sharpshooting skills, superior senses and greater reflexes by having a microchip codenamed "Black Cat" implanted into her brain while she was unconscious.
  • In Demolition Man, inmates at the Cryo-Prison are given useful skills and the desire to use them as part of their "rehabilitation". Spartan got knitting, while Phoenix got a few more practical skills.
  • Used as a plot point in Elysium. To assist Delacourt in her coup to take over the space station, Carlyle develops a program that will reboot Elysium's system, and stores it in his brain. However, while on the way up to Elysium, Carlyle's shuttle is shot down in a data-heist by Max, who downloads the information into his own brain. Instead of the financial data he expected, he suddenly finds himself holding the key to total control of the orbital paradise overhead. Thus, after Carlyle is killed during the heist, everyone is chasing after Max to get hold of the program. Worse, the program comes with a defense mechanism that kills anyone who attempts to execute the code without authorization.
  • The protagonist of The Green Beautiful (French: La Belle Verte) — coming from another planet and a way more advanced civilization — is able to transfer special abilities ("programs") by shaking their head in a peculiar way. Said abilities include hacking someone else's brain and making them go loopy for a while, hacking into computers, and long-range telepathic communication.
  • Johnny Mnemonic has an implant in his head that he uses to covertly store data. However, he cannot access it himself; it requires a password that only his client knows.
  • In Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, players can naturally access their character's skills while in the game. For non-badass characters, it's in the form of knowledge they never learned.
  • In The Lawnmower Man, Jobe initially boosts intelligence with smart drugs and virtual reality simulation/stimulation. He later also speed-reads scientific research at blinding speeds, but falls back on VR programs for learning because reading isn't fast enough for him.
  • The Matrix tends to use this and Brain Uploading willy-nilly. When you have a giant jack in the back of your head, why not use it?
  • In the Downer Beginning of No Dead Heroes, the Deuteragonist Harry is captured alive by the KGB and presumed dead by the US army, only to return after a Time Skip having been converted into a ruthless KGB killing machine thanks to having a microchip installed in his brain.

  • Alliance/Union has the Union making extensive use of "tapes" that play some sort of audio, video, and/or bioelectric feedback to rapidly educate a drugged-up student. They're particularly used for azi who get very little traditional education to speak of.
  • In Beta, clones have computer chips implanted into their brains that instruct them on things from vocabulary to emotions to ways of pleasing their human masters.
  • A Certain Magical Index:
    • This is how the Sisters clones have the knowledge and personalities they do: it is "programmed" into them via the Testament machine soon after they come out of the incubator. The manga goes on to explain that, when they are "born," their minds are a blank slate, like that of an infant. Testament also shows up in a few other contexts both before and after; it wasn't invented purely for the benefit of the Sisters.
    • A magical version of this occurs whenever someone reads a grimoire. Unfortunately for most people, even a single grimoire has a habit of killing or turning its reader into a vegetable without preparations.
  • In the latter part of The Forever War, this is done for both physical and mental skills; muscle memory is imprinted via "negative kinetic feedback".
  • In the Great Ship series, the Greatship's Captains make heavy use of "nexuses", data storage computers that can either be implanted in the body or part of a building. Nexuses allow Captains to remember a vast swathe of seemingly irrelevant information that could become critical, avoiding The Fog of Ages.
  • Greg Mandel Trilogy: The eponymous murder in A Quantum Murder is committed by the villain uploading via laser the personality of a serial killer into someone's mind, using technology recently developed. After the culprit suffers literal Laser-Guided Karma, the British government worries they'll be accused of developing a Mind-Control Device and destroy all records of the technology.
  • Shows up in a couple ways in Hive Mind (2016). "Imprinting", as it's known, is standard practice for young adults of the main character's society: it lets them start work at 18, increasing working lifespan. Telepaths are the only ones who aren't imprinted, due to the risk of damaging their powers. Imprinting can be very dangerous — while the main character's society only imprints people once, and with relatively small batches of data, we see a man who's had far too many overly large imprints. He goes through a complete mental collapse from which he's unlikely to recover. The main character ends up mercy killing him.
  • The MarĂ®d Audran series features "moddies" and "daddies", both of which can be plugged into sockets in your head. The former provides personality overlays, and is primarily used for entertainment and sex games; the latter provide specific skill enhancements, like knowledge of a foreign language.
  • A magical example comes up in Mistborn. Feruchemists can transfer memories into copperminds which they can later retrieve with perfect clarity. They can't use this to transfer information between individuals (a Feruchemist's copperminds can only retrieve memories they stored) but they can gain a bit of information, move it to the coppermind (which erases it from their own memory) and retrieve it later. This allows Feruchemists to create massive eidetic databases well beyond what they could remember normally.
  • In Neuromancer, quite possibly the Trope Maker, people can install knowledge and skills into their brains, such a chip allowing a person to speak perfect Chinese. Amusingly, they're called "microsofts".
  • Seen on a limited basis in The Nexus Series. We see some software programs being run on nexus, including a dating app that makes you say the right lines, a porn VR that controls your motor cortex to help you perform, and most notably a fight game ("Bruce Lee") given to main character Kade by Rangan to help him in tough situations. Notably, while the dating sim gets results, the porn VR glitches out at the worst time, and Bruce Lee usually gets Kade's ass kicked. The most successful app is Kade's serenity package, which modulates his neurotransmitter levels to keep his pulse under control and prevent people from knowing when he's lying.
  • In Old Man's War, Colonial troopers have a computer implanted in their heads which can provide information about a wide variety of subjects. The Special Forces have this to a much greater degree, as almost all of their education is via this interface.
  • "Profession": Everyone in The Future learns reading when they're eight, and this is called Reading Day. After taking a neurological aptitude test, their skills are downloaded into the brain. Naturally, your skills are only as good as the quality of the tapes because learning without tapes is now unthinkable.
  • Rebuild World: When the Playful Hacker Shirou sends stolen computer files into Akira's brain via Electronic Telepathy, its code is nothing but alien symbols to Akira's mind, and his Virtual Sidekick Alpha has to decipher and analyze it for him.
  • Featured in the somewhat obscure German SF series Ren Dhark in the form of 'mentcaps', small pills of alien origin that will upload information stored in them into the brain of the person who swallows them. They're used as a plot device to help the human castaway protagonists figure out all the other technology said aliens left behind on the planet they're stranded on. Noteworthy for the fact that if the implanted knowledge isn't actively used (and thereby presumably imprinted 'properly' on the user's brain through practice), it will fade over time.
  • Common for shellpeople in The Ship Who..., who can just have databases added to their incorporated computers in order to understand other languages, recognize and name the stars visible from particular locations, or have whichever other knowledge-related abilities they'd like.
  • In Star Trek: String Theory, this is offered as an explanation for how Ocampa manage to function on the same level as other humanoids despite their brief (nine-year) lifespan. Because they have little time to assimilate new information and experiences, they instead "download" memories and skill sets from their ancestors through a natural process.
  • In Will Buster And The Gelmet Helmet by Odo Hirsch, the titular helmet allows information to be uploaded directly into one's brain.
  • Yakitori: Soldiers of Misfortune: The Trade Federation use memory transcribing to rapidly teach their soldiers language and combat skills. Unfortunately, these Yakitori have a high casualty rate, so as an experiment Unit K-321 is given the language but not the combat skills, which are taught the old-fashioned way to see if that makes a difference.
  • The third book of the Young Wizards series combines this with Brain Uploading. Specifically, she had the Wizard's Manual uploaded into her mind. Her mind couldn't hold onto it for long, but while it lasted, she knew everything about magic.
  • The Zones of Thought book A Fire Upon the Deep has "godshatter", the Neural Implanting by Sufficiently Advanced Aliens of a massive Exposition Beam into a person's brain. It would probably be super helpful if the seemingly random jumble of information didn't turn the person into an erratic, drooling savant for most of the time.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Harry from 3rd Rock from the Sun had a transmitter implanted in his head that basically made him the group's space radio. Harry's a somewhat unusual example of this trope because his implant is a large piece of physical equipment which takes up a lot of space, leaving room for only half a brain. As a result, Harry's markedly disadvantaged compared to the rest of the unit; he understands almost nothing, has poor coordination (causing him to frequently hurt himself) and is completely dependent on the others for survival. However, he's more talented at artistic things than any of them, and his helpless stupidity makes him very endearing and is probably one of the reasons he got more action than the others.
    Harry: Incoming message from the Big Giant Head...
  • In Angel, Charles Gunn becomes an expert on human and demonic law, fluent in demonic languages, golf techniques and Gilbert and Sullivan in a few hours thanks to Wolfram and Hart.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Due to being turned into a soldier during "Halloween", Xander Harris still retains military knowledge long after being returned to normal, which helps out the Scoobies on more than one occasion.
  • Chuck has a national intelligence database downloaded into the main character's brain (initially via e-mail!). Later on, he gets an updated version, which also includes a number of useful skills (such as martial arts), which he temporarily receives on cue.
  • Doctor Who: The use of this for communication purposes is quite commonplace. Even the TARDIS does it.
    • Adam gets one of these in "The Long Game". In fact, everyone in the future has an implant that allowed rapid uploading of knowledge.
    • Also occurs in "Rise of the Cybermen" with the ear-pods. These are not implants, but still allow for information to be downloaded directly into the brain and for the baddie to mind-control the population.
    • The Infostamps from "The Next Doctor" are more primitive data cylinders uploaded into a Cyberman's chest.
    • Clara has "mad hacking skills" downloaded into her brain in "The Bells of Saint John".
  • Part of the main premise of Dollhouse, with the dolls regularly having new memories and personalities downloaded, along with various abilities, such as Sierra turning into an expert with gunwoman to rescue Echo. In the post-apocalyptic conclusion of the series, several of them had memory sticks loaded with programming so they quickly download skill sets (usually combative in nature) at the expense of other less important (at the moment) skills, like "Mercy".
  • In Earth: Final Conflict, Companion Protectors are given Cyber Viral Implants that grant them photographic memory and a handful of other abilities. It also makes them loyal to the Taelons. Later in the series, it is revealed that given enough time, the host's immune system can neutralize the imperative that makes them loyal to the Taelons.
  • In Joe 90, a computer is used to download recordings of other people's skills into Joe's brain.
  • Merlin (2008) has a variation: Merlin was given a mad skillz implant in his brain... through dragon magic.
  • The Prisoner (1967): In "The General", the residents of the Village (including Number Six) have historical facts on a Master Computer downloaded into their mind via a hypnosis. As usual the ultimate goal is to use this for social control purposes. Six is not impressed with people having the ability to rattle off information without being able to think for themselves, and Logic Bombs the computer simply by asking it "Why?"
  • In the fourth season The Six Million Dollar Man episode "The Ultimate Impostor", Steve Austin's friend Joe Patton is a POW whose mind has been wiped to a blank slate by chemicals. This makes him the perfect test subject for a new OSI procedure to create the ultimate agent by downloading information and skills directly into his brain.
  • In the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Spock's Brain", Dr. McCoy temporarily gains the ability to perform brain transplants through a "Teacher". However, the knowledge only lasts a few hours, so McCoy has to complete the operation before his skills fade, as it's too risky to use the helmet on a human mind a second time.
  • Treadstone: Cicadas have all the knowledge they need for their roles as intelligence agents and professional killers implanted subconsciously.
    Samantha: Combat medicine, wilderness survival, disaster relief. How to run a tail, lose a tail, and pick nine different locks in less than a minute. You know the Koran by heart and the right place to sit during a tea ceremony in Szechuan.
  • In the 1980s television adaptation of The Tripods, an undercover Freeman is infiltrating the Master's city and successfully gains admittance to the Power Elite who run the machines. Unfortunately, he's connected to a learning machine that downloads all the advanced knowledge he needs through his Cap — a Mind Control device which (in his case) has been disconnected. Fortunately, he's able to convince the Masters that allowing him to learn naturally would increase his initiative.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Cyberpunk 2020 has this. There are limitations (the most basic knowledge of a given skill and being unable to boost what you already know of it), however.
  • Eclipse Phase has both "skillsofts" that run on nanites in the brain, and psychosurgery skill imprints.
  • Instaskill nano from GURPS Ultra-Tech rapidly reorganizes a person's brain to give them basic knowledge of a new skill.
  • In Hc Svnt Dracones, the only way to improve skills within the timeframe covered by a campaign is a device called a "neuroplex" that beams data into your subconscious while sleeping. At the rate of one point every two weeks.
  • Shadowrun has Skillsofts, chips that can be inserted into implanted slots in the head to give characters skills.
  • Traveller, or at least the Mongoose edition, has Expert Programs that mimic skills and can be run on practically any computer or a specialized Wafer Jack implant. In the GURPS version, there is a social stigma against such things. The 2015 novel Agent of the Imperium goes into more detail about Wafer Jacks, overuse of Expert wafers can lead to degenerative brain conditions, and the protagonist is a brain imprint stored on a wafer who temporarily overrides the personalities of people who slot his chip.

    Video Games 
  • The BioShock games make use of this trope. They frame it as LEGO Genetics, but the end result is pretty much the same.
  • The I-Patch in Black Market is described as an implant drilled into the brain through the optic nerve. It presumably has quite a lot of memory space, since it stores a personality that can interface with other machines.
  • Deus Ex and its sequel Deus Ex: Invisible War both have character with chips in their head and a radio link to receive info. Ditto for the Deus Ex: Human Revolution prequel.
  • Ghostrunner: The implant Atma is said to have been mandatory for all citizens before the coup, and Zoe takes advantage of this to hack and send false instructions to the Keys. The final ability, Overlord, grants Jack the power to temporarily turn one enemy into an ally using the same implant.
  • Lost Ruins: A divine force teaching a spell has a sparkly effect, and its speed implies that the information was magically planted into the recipient's brain.
  • Mass Effect:
    • Grunt from Mass Effect 2 was taught how to fight, speak, and how the world works in this way, but he dislikes this because it all lacked context. He never knew why any of this stuff was important, nor why he should care about it. His personal story arc is all about him trying to find a place in the universe.
      Grunt: Like holding a book for a child. Just "remember this", picture after picture. No help with finding a reason to care.
    • In Mass Effect 3, we have Commander Shepard's clone from the Citadel DLC stating this as the source of their knowledge over the past several months while the Commander was recruiting the galaxy.
  • Kanden, a bounty hunter from Metroid Prime: Hunters, is said to have been given neural combat encoding to teach him to fight. Unfortunately, this process drove him insane and made him extremely violent.
  • The Companions and Oracles in Mysterious Journey II have the ability to upload data into a person's head via a laser beam to the forehead.
  • James from Neuro is a police investigator with a microchip implanted in his neural system (as the title implies), allowing him to move objects and hurl enemies aside through willpower alone.
  • Serious Sam has an AI surgically implanted in the titular character's brain, which allows for later downloading of things such as maps and guides.
  • Space Colony has the training pod to give employees new skills in seconds.
  • In StarCraft, the Terran Confederacy and Dominion often add some combat skills when performing neural resocialization on convicts conscripted into the military.
  • Rhys from Tales from the Borderlands has both a robotic arm and a neural implant in his eye that connects to his brain that can scan objects and people for information, as well as allowing him to hack computers easier by seeing their inner workings. At one point he also uses it to determine where a volley of orbital attacks are going to land by tracking the artillery's trajectory.
  • X-COM:
    • In X-COM: Terror from the Deep, the aliens have implants in their skulls that are part of a communication/mind control network that is based on a strange technology called "Molecular Control". Aliens can download information, via their implants, from special Learning Arrays, and your soldiers can also view information stored in the implants of other aliens by using M.C. Readers.
    • The original game also has this, but it's not explicitly pointed out: the psi-labs note that humans have psionic potential, but to make use of it, they need to have implants drilled into their heads, and connect with the psi-amp device. It doesn't negatively affect performance of the soldiers. The reboot makes the activation of psionic potential a purely genetic sequence.
    • In XCOM: Enemy Unknown, autopsying Mutons reveals that they get knowledge of tactics and how to use and maintain their weapons implanted rather than learned.

    Web Animation 
  • If the Emperor Had a Text-to-Speech Device: In the non-canon "TTS Short 5", when Kitten complains that he doesn't even know the rules of the game the Emperor wants him to play, the latter summons a Techpriest to confer him instantly the knowledge "with the power of science." This consists in the Techpriest slamming Kitten's head hard with a huge hammer.

  • Building 12 plays this for laughs. Peoni steals the memories of one of Joe's one-night stands and implants the memory of the encounter into her own brain — and it turns out the girl is into some strange, disturbing fetish, squicking Peoni out.
  • Erfworld:
    • All units are popped with a general knowledge of how their world works (including things like fluency in Language) and with any skills they need to perform their basic duties (so a Stabber automatically knows how to use his spear, for example).
    • Charlie's anachronistic guns are "self-specialing": any unit that picks one up instantly knows what it is and how it works and can use it competently. This notably only happens for guns Charlie makes, and is implied to be a product of the Arkendish.
  • In Quantum Vibe, Nicole receives an upgraded brain implant that allows her to know how to fly a sun-skimmer without training. Seamus still makes her go through several hours of simulation before allowing her in the cockpit, though.
  • Schlock Mercenary has brain backup nanomachine technology quickly tweaked to add Fake Memories and mask real ones. When "The Gavs" discover that being about 950 million of the same man's copies stays funny only for a short while and start The Diversity Engineering Institute, which eventually introduces a randomized set of differences, both anatomical and mental. That's when they discover that fake memories give theoretical knowledge and superficial skills properly, but miss some little things — like habits ensuring basic work safety.
  • Serix: Brain mods and learning programs seem to be the preferred method for most people to learn any skill in the future, and using them is so quick and convenient that the usually peaceful May is able to download Gun Fu skills off the Mindnet in the middle of a firefight.

    Web Originals 
  • Several of the devisers in the Whateley Universe have done this. Jericho has a jack in his head for easier uploading, while Techno-Devil has two jacks, one on each side of his head, and a shaved mullet so they both show.

    Western Animation 
  • In Adventure Time, the Seekers from Founders' Island such as Kara aka Susan Strong receive their education this way through a Brain/Computer Interface. The process also enhances their physical strength.
  • Thailog is programmed using this in Gargoyles.
  • In Skysurfer Strike Force, Cybron uses a massive A.I. hard drive placed on top of his head to boost his already genius brain.
  • In the sixth season of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, it's revealed that inhibitor chips were implanted into the clone troopers' brains by Palpatine so they would be able to carry out Order 66.

    Real Life 
  • Research into Brain implants for Alzheimer's patients and those who have been injured (in combat) are being developed by the U.S. government to restore short term memory and motor function; there's also some hope that longer term memory may one day be restored through this technology.