Dr. Ashford graduated from the University of California, Berkeley in 1970. At UCLA (1970 - 1985) he attained an M.D. (1974) and Ph.D. (1984). He trained in psychiatry (1975 - 1979) and was a founding member of the Neurobehavior Clinic and the first Chief Resident and Associate Director (1979 - 1980) on the Geriatric Psychiatry In-Patient Unit. He conducted the first double-blind study of an anti-cholinesterase drug (physostigmine) to treat Alzheimer patients (Ashford et al., 1981), a therapy which is now standard treatment for Alzheimer patients. Between 1980 and 1985, Dr. Ashford directed the Geriatric Psychiatry Out-patient Clinic at the Neuropsychiatric Institute and initiated the UCLA/Alzheimer PET scan study with Dr. David Kuhl.
Between 1979 and 1984, Dr. Ashford worked on his Ph.D. dissertation under Dr. Joaquin Fuster. His dissertation was a finalist for the Lindsley Prize, for the best in Behavioral Neuroscience, in 1984. With Dr. Fuster, he made the first proposal and physiologic demonstration of massive parallel information processing in the cerebral cortex (Ashford et al., 1985); which has critical implications for understanding memory, particularly that aspect of memory affected by Alzheimer's disease (Ashford, Coburn, and Fuster, 1998). His work in Alzheimer's disease and neurophysiology led to the water-shed observation that neuro-plastic memory mechanisms of the brain are specifically affected by Alzheimer pathology (Ashford and Jarvik, 1985, Teter and Ashford, 2002).
Dr. Ashford was an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine between 1985 and 1990, where he helped to establish an NIA-funded Alzheimer's Disease Core Center. There he published the first study of Modern Test Theory in the field of Medicine, "Item-Response Theory" analysis of the Mini-Mental State Exam (Ashford et al., 1989). He was an Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the University of California, Davis during 1991 and 1992, based at the Martinez, VAMC and Chief of the Mental Hygiene Clinic. He was at the University of Kentucky from 1992 to 2003 as a tenured Associate Professor in Psychiatry, Neurology, and the Sanders-Brown Center on Aging, and Vice-Chair for Research in the Department of Psychiatry to continue his research on Alzheimer's disease. There, he proposed a "Time-Index" method to measure Alzheimer dementia severity (Ashford et al., 1995; Mendiondo et al., 2000; Ashford and Schmitt, 2001), which was used in the UK Nun study (Butler, Ashford, Snowden, 1996), and to study loss of cerebral perfusion in Alzheimer patients (Ashford et al., 2000). With Dr. James Geddes he showed the crucial role of paired helical filament pathology in destroying neuronal processes (Ashford et al., 1998).
From 2003 to the present, Dr. Ashford has been a Senior Research Scientist at the Stanford / VA Aging Clinical Research Center and is now the Director of the War Related Illness and Injury Study Center the VA Palo Alto Health Care System and Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University (affiliated). He is Chair of the Memory Screening Advisory Board of the Alzheimer's Foundation of America and Clinical Editor of the Journal of Alzheimer's disease. He is currently developing early detection and measurement methods for Alzheimer's disease.
Scientific Research: MemTrax is a screening test for the detection of learning and short-term memory issues, particularly the type of memory problems that arise with aging, Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI), dementia and Alzheimer's disease. The MemTrax approach is a more intensive evaluation of memory in a novel format. In addition to percent true positives and true negatives, there is also a reaction time. The test can be given in many versions and repeatedly over a long period of time.
Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Palo Alto Health Care System
Ashford JW et al "Screening for Memory Disorders, Dementia and Alzheimer's Disease", 2008 Aging Health 4(4), 399-432
Ashford JW et al "Should older adults be screened for dementia? It is important to screen for evidence of dementia!"