Neuropharmacologist Arvid Carlsson Dies at 95

The Nobel laureate’s discoveries led to a treatment for Parkinson’s disease.

Jul 2, 2018
Sukanya Charuchandra
Arvid Carlsson

Arvid Carlsson, a Swedish pharmacologist whose discovery of dopamine’s role in Parkinson’s disease revolutionized research into the condition, died on June 29. He was 95.

“Arvid Carlsson is the originator of several major discoveries that led to dramatic improvements in quality of life for millions of patients with neurological and psychiatric disorders,” Agneta Holmäng, dean of the Sahlgrenska Academy, says in a statement from the University of Gothenburg, where Carlsson was an emeritus professor of pharmacology.

Born into an academic family in Uppsala, Sweden, in 1923, he began studying medicine at the University of Lund in 1941. Carlsson completed his medical and doctoral degrees in 1951. During that period, he served in the Swedish military forces on-and-off for two years. In 1959, he became a professor of pharmacology at the University of Lund.

Prior to Carlsson’s research into dopamine, the scientific community believed the molecule was merely responsible for the formation of norepinephrine. His work, in 1957, with rabbits that exhibited movement difficulties revealed dopamine’s role in and led to the development of therapies for the neurodegenerative disorder Parkinson’s disease. Carlsson used L-dopa, a precursor of dopamine, to treat the rabbits. This compound is now used to ameliorate Parkinson’s symptoms in patients.

In 2000, Carlsson won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for this work. “The award that you get from patients, compared to all the awards I have received, is much more important,” Carlsson said in a podcast recorded for the Sahlgrenska Academy in 2016.