How Did Alzheimer’s Disease Get Its Name?

Alzheimer’s disease is named after German psychiatrist and neurologist Alois Alzheimer. In 1906, the doctor noted some peculiar findings in the brain of a woman — known simply as Auguste D — who died after suffering memory less, disorientation, paranoia and unpredictable behavior.  

After the 51-year-old woman’s death, Alzheimer performed an autopsy on her brain. He found misshapen clumps of protein (later dubbed plaques) and twisted bundles of fibers (tangles) — the characteristics that now distinguish the degenerative brain disease. He also noted shrinkage around the nerve cells in her brain.

Several years later, in 1910, Emil Kraepelin, a German psychiatrist who worked with Alzheimer, codified his colleague’s findings. He named “Alzheimer’s disease” in the second volume of the German book General Psychiatry, marking the first time that the particular type of dementia — which slowly destroys memory and thinking skills — was described. Alzheimer himself died in 1915. 

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