In 2000, Professor Emeritus Arvid Carlsson was awarded the Nobel Prize for his research in the field of neuropharmacology. He received the award for his discovery that dopamine is a signal substance in the brain and that dopamine is of major significance to the control of our movements. As much as forty years ago, Arvid Carlsson was able to demonstrate that dopamine acts as a message carrier molecule in the brain, and that a shortage of this substance gives rise to impaired motor skills in the case of Parkinson's disease, for example.
In clinical studies, an agent which is converted into dopamine in the brain - DOPA - was found to lead to massively improved motor skills in many severely disabled patients. Even now this agent is the most effective treatment available for Parkinson's disease.
Arvid Carlsson's studies into the function of dopamine led to another scientific breakthrough in 1963. He discovered that the medications which ease the symptoms of schizophrenia and other psychotic diseases take effect by reducing the influence of dopamine in the brain. Arvid Carlsson and his colleagues were also the first people to realise that selective amplification of the signal substance serotonin is an effective and gentle way of treating depression. Prozac, which revolutionised the treatment of depression and anxiety diseases, is based on this mode of action.
The observation stating that it is possible to influence the symptoms of Parkinson's disease and psychosis by modifying dopamine activity has been of crucial importance to our understanding of these diseases. But even more important is the fact that these studies have made it clear for the first time that it is actually possible to influence the function of the brain by modulating the signal substances that deal with communication between the neurons by means of medicines. More or less all later research into pharmaceutical therapy for neurological and psychiatric diseases is based on this strategy demonstrated by Arvid Carlsson.