Pioneering research on the localization of brain functions by the eminent neurosurgeon Wilder Penfield (1891-1976) provides scientific evidence for the existence of a spirit.

Penfield was attempting to identify the origins of epileptic seizures by stimulating exposed regions of patients’ brains with an electrode. If the initial seizure location could be identified then he would consider removing tissue at the trigger site. By repeatedly stimulating brain regions in conscious patients and noting the effects, Penfield was able to construct a remarkably detailed map of localized functions in the brain. Equally impressive was what he did not find. In all his work on stimulating the human brain, Penfield could not locate the mind.

When Penfield carried out his investigations, patients would report all sorts of sensations, memories, and movements, but the electrode never activated the patients’ mind. He could not stimulate the brain and cause a patient to make a choice, to believe something, or to reason. This discovery led him to conclude that “it will always be quite impossible to explain the mind on the basis of neuronal activity in the brain.”

Penfield noted that throughout his research the mind was manifested in the patients’ reports of what his electrode caused them to do and feel. For example, when the electrode caused a hand to move, the patients did not say, “I wanted to move my hand;” they said, “I didn’t do that, you did.” He concluded that “The patient’s mind, which is considering the situation in such an aloof and critical manner, can only be something quite apart from the neuronal reflex action.”

When Penfield began his studies of the human brain, he had hoped to discover how the brain causes the mind. However, unable to find the physical correlates of the mind in the brain and at the same time ever aware of the presence of mind during his research, Penfield reached an unexpected conclusion. He determined that a human spirit must be the source of the mind. This conclusion brought him great joy. “What a thrill it [was],” he declared, “to discover that the scientist, too, can legitimately believe in the existence of the spirit!”

(Source: an excerpt taken from Truth and Science: An LDS Perspective)

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