Alois Alzheimer: biography of the neurologist who discovered this dementia.
Summary of the life of Alois Alzheimer, the scientist who discovered the disease that bears his name.
One of the problems associated with aging is memory loss. Upon reaching old age, many people suffer from dementias, which are disabling and generate a lot of psychological discomfort, both for the sufferer and his immediate environment.
Of the diseases in which there is a significant loss of memory, the most famous is Alzheimer's disease, characterized by a decrease in the thickness of the cerebral cortex and abnormalities in neurons.
In this article we will see, by way of summary, a biography of Alois Alzheimer, the discoverer of the disease that carries his name and which is behind most cases of dementia.
Biography of Alois Alzheimer
Alois Alzheimer was a German neurologist and psychiatrist born in Bavaria, Germany, on June 14, 1864.on June 14, 1864. He died on December 19, 1915 in Wroclaw, now Wrocław, Poland, aged 51.
Already in his school years he showed an interest in science, excelling excellently as a pupil. For this reason, and following his father's advice, he decided to study medicine, being the first in his family to opt for this career.
In 1883 he began his medical studies at the Friedrich Wilhelm University in Berlin, but five months later he transferred to the University of Würzburg. During the winter semester of 1886 to 1887 he studied at the Eberhard Karls University in Tübingen. When he returned from that stay, he decided to deepen his knowledge in histology and embryology, under the tutelage of the Swiss anatomist Albert von Kölliker.. Von Kölliker supervised Alzheimer's doctoral thesis "On the ceruminous glands".
Although Alzheimer's histological studies initially dealt with different parts of the human body, he believed that the study of body tissues could be of great use in elucidating the Biological causes behind psychological disorders.
In 1888 he graduated in medicine and was licensed to practice medicine throughout the German Empire. That same year he began working at the Municipal Asylum for the Insane and Epileptics in Frankfurt, where he showed his great gifts as a physician. In the same city he met Franz Nissla great psychiatrist and medical researcher, and they developed a great friendship.
They both carried out several neuropathological studies together and considered that mechanical restraint of patients with mental disorders should be reduced, promoting autonomy and freedom of those admitted. They considered that a good method to calm patients was spa baths. Together they tried to find out what were the organic bases of mental disorders.. In 1896 he succeeded Nissl as head of the Frankfurt asylum.
Several years later, in 1903, Emil Kraepelin, who is considered the founder of modern psychiatry, invited Alois Alzheimer to join his clinic in Heidelberg. Despite the great opportunity, Alzheimer only stayed at the clinic for about six months.
Research and work: Auguste D. case
During his years in Frankfurt, Alzheimer had the opportunity to become acquainted with the case of a patient who would make him famous: Auguste D.
Auguste D. was a 51-year-old female patient who had been admitted due to a very advanced state of memory loss. very advanced state of memory loss.. Initially, about six months before admission, her symptoms had been attacks of jealousy, in which she thought that her husband was having an affair with a neighbor. After that, after about two weeks, she began to have memory problems, completely forgetting aspects of her life, which prevented her from doing household chores.
Alzheimer's kept track of the progression of Auguste D.'s dementia, noting any new symptoms or noteworthy behaviors. The patient never received any treatment other than baths to calm her.
When Auguste D. passed away, Alzheimer proceeded to study his brainconvinced that the symptoms had a neurological explanation. He took samples, stained them with chemical dyes and saw that, unlike healthy neurons, the patient's neurons had a peculiarity never seen in other patients before. In addition to having senile plaques, composed of extracellular matter, in Auguste D.'s brain there was neurofibrillary degeneration, i.e., changes in the structures of the neurons.
After this case, and once he had published several studies, in 1906 Alzheimer presented the disease detected in Auguste D. at the conference that would catapult him as a famous scientist. At the 37th Southwest German Psychiatry Conference, Alzheimer presented his research under the title On a specific disease of the cerebral cortex. He indicated that he had been studying an unusual neurodegenerative disease affecting the cerebral cortex. affecting the cerebral cortex, the main symptoms of which were memory loss, spatiotemporal disorientation, hallucinations and death.
Although Alzheimer's initially considered the disease he had discovered to be rare, the truth is that it is one of the most common causes behind dementias. It was Kraepelin who baptized the disease as Alzheimer's disease in honor of its discoverer in 1910 in the eighth edition of the Manual of Psychiatry.
In 1912, Alois Alzheimer was appointed professor of psychiatry and took over the direction of the psychiatric and mental clinic of the University of Breslau.
Death and legacy
In 1913, on his way to Breslau in order to take up his newly appointed position as head of the psychology department at Friedrich-Wilhelm University, Alzheimer's suffered a severe cold worsened by endocarditis, which was the cause of his death.which was the cause of his death in 1915.
Barely 5 years after Alzheimer's death, the disease was already widely known in the scientific community. Researchers of the stature of Ramón y Cajal experimentally tackled Alzheimer's disease in order to confirm the findings of the German physician.
Alzheimer's disease has been a major concern since it was first described.. It involves a serious worsening of both the patient's autonomy and the dynamics of his or her family environment. Many research groups have tackled this disease and thanks to their findings, drugs have been produced that help slow down the development of the disease.
Also, thanks to the fact that this disease has been given a name, there are many foundations dedicated to raising awareness of the disease in society, such as the Pasqual Maragall Foundation, and there is an International Alzheimer's Day (September 21).
Although more than a hundred years have passed since Alzheimer's disease was described, the truth is that we still do not know everything about this disease, which has come to be considered the epidemic of the 21st century.
- García, S. and Villagómez-Ortiz, A. J. (2008). Alois Alzheimer: physician of all times. Revista de Especialidades Médico-Quirúrgicas, 13(1), 1-2.
(Updated at Mar 28 / 2023)