Alzheimer’s disease stays as one of the terrifying diagnoses and illnesses out there. No surprise as it is irreversible, and claws its way into the brain, slowly destroying thinking skills and memory, taking out the capability to do even the simplest tasks. Not to mention that it’s also fatal and ranks sixth as the leading cause of death in the U.S. with an estimated 5.8 million Americans suffering from Alzheimer’s.
Fortunately, more research and studies are being done by experts. Since its first discovery, significant advancement was made and all are looking forward to what’s on the horizon for its treatment. So, in this article, let’s know more about when Alzheimer’s was discovered and the person credited for identifying the disease.
Dr. Alois Alzheimer is the person attributed to the discovery of Alzheimer’s disease in 1906. Alois was born to Therese and Edward Alzheimer, on the 14th of June 1984. Raised in southern Germany, he earned his medical degree in 1887 and took a position at the Community Hospital for Mental and Epileptic Patients the following year in Frankfurt City, Germany. His post-doctoral research and training focused on neuropathology and function of the cerebral cortex, and the study of brain disease.
All began when Alois met his patient Auguste Deter in 1901, the same year Alois’ wife died. Deter was a 51-year old woman, who was showing signs of dementia, such as confusion, memory loss, aphasia, paranoia, hallucinations, disorientation, and delusions, causing her to rapidly deteriorate. Though Alois had to move to another city because of his research, he continued to closely monitor and document all her signs and symptoms in depth.
Deter eventually died in 1906 at the age of 55, and Alois requested her brain and records to be sent to his lab located in Munich to conduct research and thorough examination. After dissecting and studying Deter’s brain, Alois discovered an abnormality in its cerebral cortex which shrank significantly. The cerebral cortex is a crucial part of the brain responsible for language, judgment, memory, and the entire thinking process. Moreover, he also saw abnormal clumps now called amyloid plaques, and raveled bundles now called tau or neurofibrillary, which are today’s hallmarks of the disease.
In 1906, Alois presented his findings, first referring to the illness as a disorder of the cerebral cortex. His lecture thoroughly outlined the symptoms of his patient, Auguste Deter, and the changes he saw in Deter’s brain after her death. The initial presentation and lecture received limited enthusiasm from his peers. Nevertheless, Alois’ lecture was published the following year and released another description of his other similar patient in 1910.
It was only in 1910 when the condition was named and referenced as Alzheimer’s disease when his boss Emil Kraepelin wrote about Auguste Deter’s case in his widely-renowned psychiatric textbook.
Alois Alzheimer died at the age of 51 on the 19th of December 1915 due to an infection in his heart. Apart from the legacy of discovering the illness, another feat made by Alois is that his pathological view of the disease remains close to nowadays’ perceived characteristics of Alzheimer’s, proving how advanced his skill and thinking was at the time of its official finding.