The Fascinating World of Brain Meme

Introduction to Brain Meme

Brain Meme

What is a Brain Meme?

“Brain meme” refers to a popular series of multi-panel meme formats depicting schematic drawings of brains expanding, galaxy images, or other creative visuals to represent different levels of intelligence, consciousness, or understanding. Typically, simple or nonsensical ideas are correlated with smaller or less developed brain images, while more complex, philosophical, or cosmic perspectives are accompanied by elaborately detailed brains or space scenes.

Origins and History

The expanding brain meme is thought to have originated on Reddit in the early 2010s, arising from MS Paint drawings and relatable humor about feeling more “intelligent” or “woke.” It gained significant popularity on Tumblr, Instagram, Twitter and other social media over the years. The galaxy brain was an early variant, followed by many creative iterations like ascending brains, multidimensional brains, and ironic anti-memes.

Beyond just the humor of ranking ideas against these imaginative graphics, brain meme resonate because of how effectively they communicate complex perspectives with simple visual shorthand. The zany creations also lend themselves to creative remixes and customization for different topics.

The Science Behind Brain Memes

The Science Behind Brain Memes

How the Brain Processes Information

Interestingly, these memes actually relate to how our brains access information. As ideas become more dimensional and intricate, different regions of the brain activate to handle the complexity. The schematics reflect Higher levels of consciousness and understanding as “whole brain” integration.

Beyond the pseudoscience humor, these memes shed light on how psychology and neuroscience thinks about brain optimization, activity differences in developmental stages or altered states. Terms like “galaxy brain” take on almost a philosophical or transpersonal meaning.

Using Humor to Communicate Ideas

Research shows humor engages more areas of the brain than plain information, making communication more effective. By couching concepts in humorous and exaggerated graphics, these memes use this principle for conveying ideas in impactful cultural shorthand across social channels.

Types of Brain Memes

Types of Brain Memes

Expanding Brain

The original variation, these memes display a progression from small to progressively larger brains, like the perceiving mind, learning mind, innovating mind and transcending mind.

Galaxy Brain

This popular spin incorporates galaxy graphics at the higher end to suggest truly cosmic understanding, like grasping multidimensional realities or the space-time continuum.

Ascended Brain

Taking the concept even further, ascending brain memes depict the brain detaching from the body and rising into higher planes or dimensions of enlightened consciousness.

Other Creative Variations

The format has spawned many new permutations like universe brain, flat earth brain, anti-vaxxer brain, even multi-dimensional cosmic depictions of brains through space and time. Truly endless creative potential!

Purposes and Uses of Brain Meme

Purposes and Uses of Brain Meme

Communicating Complex Ideas Simply

Despite the exaggerated graphics, these memes can eloquently convey nuanced philosophical statements or modes of thinking in immediately graspable form.

Social Commentary and Satire

The meme lends itself well to witty (or bitingly critical) commentary on topics like politics, gender, conspiracy theories and current events.

Absurdity and Surreal Humor

Part of the appeal is the zany, surreal juxtaposition of brains against ever-more-grandiose cosmic backdrops, tapping the human delight in absurdity.

Memes as “Digital Folklore”

Expanding brain memes have become their own evolving contribution to internet folklore – adapting the core template to shift cultural perspectives and share clever societal observations.

The Appeal of Brain Meme

The Appeal of Brain Meme

Visual Shorthand

By correlating simpler to ever-more-complex multistep graphics in sequence, the meme offers an efficient visual shorthand for ranked ideas that our brains instantly recognize.

Relatability of Format

Many find both humor and insightful familiarity in the way the meme presents scales of awareness, truth or intelligence as steps along a progression.

Customization and Creativity

The meme template offers endless possibilities for creating your own commentary on any number of topics, allowing personalized expression of creativity.


Brain memes spread so widely across social media because of how readily remixable and easily shareable the core template proved to be.

Criticisms and Controversies

Criticisms and Controversies

Spreading Misinformation

Some criticize these memes for credulously spreading pseudo-scientific concepts, or wrongly equivocating silly ideas with complex philosophical statements.

Offensive or Harmful Stereotypes

While intended humorously, some variants dabble in offensive gender, racial or religious stereotypes correlating those groups with lower intelligence.

Future and Evolution of Brain Memes

Future and Evolution of Brain Memes

New Iterations and Variations

If history shows anything, this meme template will continue evolving new graphic interpretations and commentary ad infinitum as culture shifts.

Changing Cultural Contexts

While the common interpretations today associate intelligence with the more detailed graphics, future cultural connotations may diverge from this assumption in unpredictable ways.

Memes in Marketing and Media

As memes become further embedded in commercial media, we may well see brain memes appropriated for ads, merchandise, TV graphics and corporate messaging.


Summary and Final Thoughts

What began as whimsical MS Paint diagrams riffing on pseudo-intellectualism became one of the internet’s most viral, customizable, and continually evolving memes. Brain meme humorously illustrate how we cognitively map perspectives while offering an absurd and sharable way to critique the spectrums of human thought.

Questions and Discussion

What innovations might this meme take on next? How might cultures re-appropriate or subvert the common meanings? Can it maintain longevity amidst ever-shifting internet hyperactivity?

The breadth of human consciousness – and human weirdness – is infinite, so the bounds of the brain meme may be as endless as the cosmic vistas it invokes!


What is the “Expanding Brain” meme?

The “Expanding Brain” meme is a multi-panel image showing progressively larger brain sizes meant to visually represent different levels of intelligence or awareness, from small brains for mundane thoughts to larger, more complex brains for deeper realizations.

What are some examples of Brain Memes?

Some popular versions include β€œgalaxy brain”, β€œuniverse brain”, β€œflat earth brain”, β€œwoke brain”, β€œmedieval peasant brain”, β€œtranscended cosmic brain,” and ironic meta-commentary versions like β€œsmall face huge brain” or β€œdevolving brain.”

Beyond just the visual humor, they effectively communicate philosophical ideas and social commentary by matching different scales of consciousness and intelligence to clever graphics that readers instantly recognize at a glance.

Can Brain Memes spread misinformation?

Yes, the formatted correlation of graphics to levels of truth or intelligence can potentially spread misinformation if not applied judiciously. However, most readers understand the exaggerated humor and hyperbole involved.

What does the future look like for Brain Memes?

This meme template has already taken on endless creative iterations and shows no sign of losing cultural resonance, though the common interpretations may shift over time. We can likely expect new innovations in both graphics and meaning as the meme continues spreading.