Hi, beadgrl. I've not experienced "alien brains" before, but it sounds to me like it could be a result of the soap overheating. I usually make my CP soap using the process you describe and let my soaps fully gel. When you wrap your mold with towels or blankets, you're insulating it and helping it retain its heat so it gels. Depending on your ingredients, soaping temps (I usually soap between 100-110 degrees F), etc., sometimes the soap can overheat. Ingredients like honey, goat's milk, and beer can make the soap get hotter due to the sugars and the soap may crack, curdle, or separate. Some soapers avoid gel phase altogether by popping their soap into the fridge after pouring into molds to keep the soap from heating up. Thinner plastic molds may be better than wooden or insulated molds for soaps prone to overheating, or if you're trying to avoid gel. Ungelled soaps may zap for a few days longer than gelled soaps because the saponification process is slowed.
When I gel my soaps, I usually unmold after 24 hours, too, and test for zap. Then I let mine cure for about 6 weeks before using. A cure of 4-8 weeks is probably typical for most soaps.
Hope that helps! Have fun soaping!