Don't rack your brain trying to remember how you know the name Wilder Penfield. That was his specialty.
The American-Canadian was a pioneering neurosurgeon who expanded brain surgery's methods and techniques in the treatment of epilepsy. He was instrumental in mapping various functions of the brain, and his research on neural stimulation helped expand our understanding of hallucinations, illusions and déjà vu.
To honor Penfield's many contributions on his 127th birthday, Google's animatedon Friday illustrates his development of the Montreal procedure, which treated patients with severe epilepsy by destroying nerve cells in the brain where the seizures originated.
Before operating, Penfield used electrical probes to stimulate parts of conscious patients' brains, allowing him to observe their responses and more accurately target the areas of the brain responsible. During a short film dramatizing the development that was seen widely in Canada, an epileptic patient exclaims: "I can smell burnt toast!"
Even though he was born in Washington and grew up in Wisconsin, Penfield was once dubbed "the greatest living Canadian." In later years, he became an author and a champion of university education and childhood bilingualism.
His name may also ring a bell with science fiction fans. In Philip K. Dick's landmark novel "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?," future citizens use a household device called a Penfield Mood Organ to regulate their emotions.
Penfield died of abdominal cancer in 1976 at the age of 85.
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