Paul Ashwood, PhD

MIND Institute, UC Davis


Paul Ashwood, PhD, is a Professor in the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology and with the M.I.N.D. Institute at the University of California at Davis. He earned his Ph.D. at King’s College London where he focused on how environmental exposures cause inflammation in gastrointestinal diseases. He received further research training in stem cell biology at Cancer Research UK and post-doctoral research training on autism at University College London.

His current studies are at the forefront of a rapidly evolving field of investigation into the role that immune response plays in neurodevelopmental conditions such as autism. He was the first to demonstrate links between immune dysfunction and the severity of impairments that are hallmark features of autism such as social interactions and communication.

Overall, Dr. Ashwood has worked across traditional disciplinary boundaries to examine connections between different biological systems during development in order to understand how they lead to the characteristic features of autism. Specifically, he has highlighted the importance of innate immune pathways, gut-immune-brain connections and the presence of autoimmunity in some children with autism. He is author of over 100 articles on autism and has received recognition for his innovative work.

BRAIN Funded Projects

Pilot investigation of epigenetic mechanisms of innate immune activation in ASD (2023)

Project aim: Understand mechanisms behind increased innate immune activation, through epigenetic mechanisms, in children with ASD and GI comorbidity in order to identify potential biomarkers and targets for therapeutic interventions

Neuroinflammation and brain development in ASD (2022)

Mapping brain development in autism and correlating it to inflammatory/immune related disturbances in ASD.

Immunoregulation and Gastrointestinal Issues in Autism Spectrum Disorder (2021)

A project to determine the mechanisms of increased innate immune activation in individuals with autism and GI dysfunction.

Understanding Differences in Intestinal Epithelium in Autism and Controls & Constructing a Biobank of Intestinal Organoids (2020)

Recent & Selected Publications

Ashwood P. Differential T Cell Levels of Tumor Necrosis Factor Receptor-II in Children With Autism. Front Psychiatry. 2018;9:543. Published 2018 Nov 20. doi:10.3389/fpsyt.2018.00543

Onore C, Yang H, Van de Water J, Ashwood P. Dynamic Akt/mTOR Signaling in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Front Pediatr. 2017;5:43. Published 2017 Mar 15. doi:10.3389/fped.2017.00043

Mead J, Ashwood P. Evidence supporting an altered immune response in ASD. Immunol Lett. 2015;163(1):49-55. doi:10.1016/j.imlet.2014.11.006

BRAIN Synchrony Symposia presentations

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