Auguste Deter. (2023, April 30). In Wikipedia.

In recent years, research is showing a relationship between insulin resistance and the breakdown of neuron functionality in the brain. This brain/insulin connection has created the clinical research term “Type 3 Diabetes,” the newest name for Alzheimer’s Disease. I wondered how we got the name Alzheimer’s for this malady. Who would want their name attached to something that sends goosebumps up your body at the mention of it? Here is the original Alzheimer’s story.


Auguste Deter’s Story

In the 1890s, Germany’s Auguste Deter, age 50, began to lose her memory, lose her sense of time, and lose herself. Because of her paranoid delusions, trance-like states, and screaming episodes, she was confined to Frankfurt’s Irrenschloss known as “Castle of the Insane” in 1901. Mrs. Deter was not only bewildered most of the time, but she was keenly aware of her predicament.

“I have lost myself,” summed up her situation. Yet, some of Deter’s responses were perfectly logical. When asked, “Where is your bed?” Auguste replied, “Where it should be.”  


Who Named This Ailment?

Unlike Lou Gehrig’s disease, named for its most famous fatality, or Lyme Disease, named for the Connecticut towns where it gained recognition, most of our eponymous diseases create Wikipedia entries for the doctors and researchers who’ve studied them but leave the suffers in obscurity. A.D., or Alzheimer’s Disease, is named for the doctor.


Alois Alzheimer

While working at the Frankfurt Institution for the Mentally Ill and for Epileptics, Dr. Alois Alzheimer documented Auguste Deter’s mental deterioration as she consciously struggled to understand what was taking place in her mind. Following her death in 1906, Dr. Alzheimer continued to study her medical records; he studied her brain as well.  

In Auguste Deter’s brain, Alzheimer found two physical abnormalities that today characterize the condition. He discovered senile plaques, which are clumps of a-beta protein cells that block normal transmissions between neurons, those many-fingered hands that reach across the mind to connect our snippets of knowledge. Barriers form around the brain’s cells which block the transference of messages. He also found lesions that formed inside the brain cells, killing neurons from within. These are called neurofibrillary tangles. This discovery and subsequent research shows the disease damages neurons on two fronts, from within and without.  


Learning and Memory

Further research reveals that numerous types of neurotransmitters are impacted by the disease. Glutamate transmitters affect learning and memory. Recent additions to the family are often lost to an Alzheimer patient who no longer has the capacity to learn new names or catalog new information. Healthcare workers and assisted living workers must introduce themselves every day, like living through “50 First Dates” without the happy ending.

When Dr. Alzheimer asked, “What is your name?” she replied, “Auguste.” When asked for her family name, she replied, “Auguste.” When asked her husband’s name, the lady replied, “Auguste.”


Who’s In Control?

Noradrenaline transmitters distort responsiveness, fear, and aggression. Stress, brought on by fear and paranoia can cause a sufferer to become combative with family members or healthcare workers, making it difficult to care for their needs or even be around them. Auguste Deter came to believe friends and strangers alike were attempting to kill her. Sometimes, it’s easy to get frustrated or angry with ill-behaved seniors who have dementia, but their brains are controlling their actions, not the other way around.  


Alzheimer Moods

Serotonin transmitters impact mood, body temperature, the cardiovascular system, appetite, social behavior, and sleep patterns. People with Alzheimer’s may struggle to stay warm despite wearing many layers of clothing. They may lose the ability to enjoy favorite foods. Gamma-amino butyric acid (GABA) dysfunction can cause increased apathy and anxiety. Moods may change quickly from states of hopelessness to states of extreme frustration and are often compounded by an inability to communicate as the brain and body no longer work together.


Here and Now

When asked where she was at that moment, August Deter replied, “Here and everywhere, here and now, you must not think badly of me.” So maybe A.D. stands for Auguste Deter after all.


To learn more about Alzheimer’s Disease (or Auguste Deter’s Disease), read What Is Alzheimer’s Disease?

Early Symptoms of Alzheimer’s

Risks and Risk Reducers of Alzheimer’s


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