Alzheimer’s: The History

by Lior Rosenman on November 16th, 2008

The Doctor and Frau
Everyone has heard of Alzheimer’s but how many of you know where it is from? Well, as you have undoubtedly guessed, it started with a guy named Alzheimer. A doctor actually, a German physician named Alois Alzheimer, who first described the condition all the way back in 1906.

The Case
At a scientific meeting in November of that year, Dr. Alzheimer presented the case of “Frau Auguste D.,” a 51-year-old woman brought in by her family to see the doctor.

The Symptoms
Upon examining Frau D, Dr. Alzheimer found that Auguste exhibited symptoms in a unique set of problem areas: she had problems with memory, she displayed acute paranoia in her suspicions that her husband was unfaithful, and she experienced difficulty in both speaking and understanding what was said to her.

The Outcome
Her symptoms worsened steadily, and within a few years she was bedridden. In the Spring of 1906, Frau died. The official cause of death was “overwhelming infection from bedsores and pneumonia.”

The Study
Struck by this unseen combination of symptoms, Dr. Alzheimer obtained the family’s permission to perform an autopsy.

The Findings
What he saw in Frau’s brain amazed him: there was visible, dramatic physical shrinkage, particularly of the cortex, which we now know is the outer layer of our brain that supports memory, thinking, judgment and speech.

Under the Microscope
Upon further examination of Frau’s brain under a microscope, Alzheimer discovered a proliferation of fatty deposits in the small blood vessels of the brain, in between dead and dying brain cells, and surrounded by unrecognizable and clearly abnormal deposits running throughout the interior and exterior of the brain cells.

The Publishing and the Naming
Dr. Alzheimer published his findings the following year in 1907. Three years later, in 1910, psychiatrist Emil Kraepelin, a noted researcher whose work was rooted in naming and classification of brain disorders, proposed that the disease be named after his esteemed colleague Dr. Alzheimer. And so did society’s most well-known aging disease first enter the literature of medical history

  • E-mail this story to a friend!
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Digg
  • MySpace
  • LinkedIn
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Live
  • NewsVine
  • Print this article!
  • Propeller
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • Technorati
  • Twitter

Comments are closed for this entry.