As Katherine leaves, Gifty checks on her mother, still unmoving in the bed. She goes to the lab, where she cleans up her workspace. She has finished her research: she is as certain as she can be that she can make the mice refrain from seeking rewards by stimulating the right neural pathway. She delivered the light, and even the limping mouse stopped pushing the lever. She begins to write up her findings, which are dry and direct. They can’t capture her very human feelings of relief, or the sensation of holding a mouse’s life in her hands.
There is still reason for Gifty to believe that things—and people—can’t change. Her mother’s second depression seems to be following the first almost exactly. This consistency throws Gifty’s scientific breakthrough into sharp relief and offers a reminder that the whole point of her work is to change situations of depression and addiction that, up till now, had been considered hopelessly unchangeable. But even as she does this work she realizes that the science alone won’t ever capture her transcendent feeling of success.
The laying on of hands was important in Gifty’s childhood church: when someone received prayer, it was administered through the hands of those nearest them. Everyone else reached out their hands across the distance. Gifty remembers the feeling of touch when she was saved and watching the limping mouse refuse the lever reminds her of the meaning of rebirth and redemption, of needing the outstretched hands of others and the grace of God.
There is some important form of connection between living creatures that Gifty can’t explain through science. She felt it when she was saved one night in her church, and every time that her congregation laid hands on one another for healing. She felt it when Pastor John laid his hands on her head to pray for her in the weeks after Nana’s death, and when she watched him praying for her mother. Although these prayers weren’t effectual in and of themselves, they are a key component of being human. And Gifty feels this connection when she respectfully and gratefully touches her mouse. And, seeing the mouse’s refusal of the lever, for the first time in her life she truly believes in the possibility of redemption.