Dr. Arvid Carlsson

Dr. ARVID CARLSSON (b. January 25, 1923) is a Swedish scientist who is best known for his work with the neurotransmitter dopamine and its effects in Parkinson’s Disease. Carlsson won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2000 along with co-recipients Eric Kandel and Paul Greengard.

Finding Mecca

Carlsson was born in Uppsala, Sweden, son of Gottfrid Carlsson, historian and later professor of history at the University of Lund, where he began his medical education in 1941. Although Sweden was neutral during World War II, Carlsson’s education was interrupted by several years of service in the Swedish Armed Forces. In 1951, he received his M.L. degree (the equivalent of the American M.D.) and his M.D. (the equivalent of the American Ph.D.). He then became a professor at the University of Lund. In 1959 he became a professor at the University of Gothenburg.

Discovering dopamine

In the 1950s, Carlsson demonstrated that dopamine was a neurotransmitter in the brain and not just a precursor for norepinephrine, as had been previously believed. He developed a method for measuring the amount of dopamine in brain tissues and found that dopamine levels in the basal ganglia, a brain area important for movement, were particularly high. Carlsson then showed that giving animals the drug reserpine caused a decrease in dopamine levels and a loss of movement control. These effects were similar to the symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease. By administering to these animals L-Dopa, a precursor to dopamine, he could alleviate the symptoms. These findings led other doctors to try L-Dopa with human Parkinson’s patients and found it to alleviate some of the symptoms in the early stages of Parkinson’s.

New questions and circuitries