In my world there is an organism that goes through a phase where its brain melts like goo and re-forms but not within the same structure, could my organism remember its past memories?

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ There simply isn't enough information in your question to even begin to hazard a guess. What type of memory? Declarative? Associative? Eidetic? What type of organism is this? A six-layered cortex mammalian brain with 80 billion neurons, like in a human, is going to be very different from the simple 100,000 neuron brain made up of mushroom bodies in a fruit fly. It's further complicated by the fact that we don't know how memory works. Our best guess is that it has something to do with the way synapses are constructed between neurons, but even that isn't proven. $\endgroup$
    – stix
    Jul 25, 2022 at 21:51

2 Answers 2


Insects seem capable of retaining the memories they formed while they were caterpillars also in they stage where they are in the final and adult stage.

And to do that metamorphosis they go exactly through the stage of goo.

We show that larvae learned to avoid the training odor, and that this aversion was still present in the adults. [...] The present study, the first to demonstrate conclusively that associative memory survives metamorphosis in Lepidoptera,

Therefore it is totally possible that also your organism can do the same.

  • $\begingroup$ An insect brain is drastically different from a mammalian brain. I don't think that caterpillar metamorphosis is enough to say that declarative memory would survive mammals going through a similar transformation... The best theories on human memory suggest they are stored in synapses, and thus unless there were some means of preserving the synaptic information through the "goo" stage, memory would necessarily be lost. $\endgroup$
    – stix
    Jul 25, 2022 at 21:47
  • $\begingroup$ @stix OP never mentioned a mammalian, nor I have stated that it would work for mammals $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Jul 26, 2022 at 3:22
  • $\begingroup$ @stix I'd argue that memory is a topic that we are still scratching the surface of, so I hate to exclude possibilities, especially in worldbuilding. There is evidence that caterpillars can retain some memories of what happened to them after the metamorphosis turns them into butterflies. How this works is still not fully understood. $\endgroup$
    – Cort Ammon
    Jul 26, 2022 at 15:10
  • $\begingroup$ @L.Dutch The problem is OP's question is not well formed. There isn't enough amplifying information to begin to answer it. $\endgroup$
    – stix
    Jul 26, 2022 at 16:51
  • $\begingroup$ @CortAmmon That doesn't help the case. OP's question lacks depth, and brains are widely different between species. If OP is asking about a sentient organism, it's far more likely that the brain would be organized similar to mammals. Insect brains are incredibly simplistic and architecturally very different from vertebrates. $\endgroup$
    – stix
    Jul 26, 2022 at 16:52

I think your question requires more story details, for example:

  • What do you mean by "melt"? Do the cells remain intact or do they break down and later become regenerated? What about the neural connections?
  • Is this "melting" process a natural process in its evolution? A survival response where they voluntarily melt to ward off predators? Is it an involuntary reaction to external stimuli?
  • What do you mean by "not within the same structure"? (This relates to the above questions.)

Nevertheless, from an informational-theoretic point of view I will still offer a general response based on the description above:

  • Let's assume that our organism has brain anatomy similar to a human.
  • From what little we know (and I do mean little; much still remains unknown about human neurobiology), our brain is composed on neurons that connect to each other via Axons.
  • Thus the brain can be seen as a highly complex network of cells that each contain an internal state along with edges that connect to other cells.
  • If, in the worst case, all your cells break down at the molecular level, you must be able to store the entirety of the state of the network (that is, the state of each cell along with each connection between each cell) somewhere else (for example, a really big SSD, or for biological machines a really long strand of DNA).
  • If your organism is able to perform the following steps:
    • store the entire state of its brain into the selected recording medium
      • (remember that the brain handles both concious and unconcious action such as breathing and the beating of the heart)
      • (also note that ideally, cerebral state should be "paused" or regularly "updated" into storage so as to minimize inconsistencies)
      • redundancy (such as RAID arrays) help keep memories intact
    • keep both the stored information and and "melted" material around safely for later reconstitution or retrieval
    • reconstruct the stored brain state from the saved "goo"
  • Then your organism should be able to survive an otherwise lethal brain melt with its memories and lower functions intact
    • Note that I've over-simplified and glossed over other important details such as neurons involved with muscle memory and regulating other organs

If your "melting" is less severe (to the point where the brain seemingly melts but the brain's neural network structure remains intact) your organism can both retain memories and conciousness during the process but injuries from bullets and whatnot would be just as lethal.

Also note that Star Trek has relevant examples with Changelings and the Suliban.


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