Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Departmental Honors




My research was for the Honors Capstone, and consisted of familiarizing myself with the vast amount of research in the fields of autism and autoimmunity and how the two may be connected, then going on to design a new project to help acquire more information where these two fields overlap. The official abstract I have written for this new project goes as follows: Our proposed research project is focused primarily in the fields of autism and autoimmunity, and hopes to uncover more evidence that these two fields are related. We believe that autism is an autoimmune disease, and our project is designed to provide evidence to support this theory. We will use neuroimaging techniques through the use of a PET scanner to determine the autoimmune activation in the brains of both individuals with autism and individuals with no history of autism or any other autoimmune disease. This will allow us to test our hypothesis that individuals with autism will have a greater autoimmune response than controls, therefore providing evidence to the theory that autism is a neurological disorder that leads to immune dysregulation in the brain. We are also interested in whether there is a connection between a biological family history of autoimmune disorders and an increased incidence of a diagnosis of autism in individuals. To test this theory, we have prepared a questionnaire meant to identify any and all cases of medical disorders of any biological relatives of the individual in question, to be given to all participants in this study. Information gathered from this survey can provide evidence either for or against our hypothesis, allowing us to determine whether this hypothesis is likely or not. The long-term objectives of this project are to provide more evidence for the theory that autism is an autoimmune disease, and to provide more information on how autism causes immune dysregulation in the brain, thus allowing for better innovation for treatments in the future. Autism is a highly studied disorder, as there still remains much that we do not know, so this study wants to contribute to the knowledge base we have on autism. We hope that by providing evidence that autism is an autoimmune disorder, individuals both within and outside of the health field will be better able to understand individual cases of autism, both in regards to treatment and management of symptoms, and in interpersonal relationships of individuals with autism.

Included in

Biology Commons



Faculty Mentor

Thayne Sweeten