William E. Sonntag, PhD

  • Research Program: Geroscience
  • Position: College of Medicine, Dep. of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, Professor and Chair, Director of Center for Geroscience and Healthy Brain Aging


The emphasis of Dr. Sonntag’s research has been the neuroendocrine regulation of growth hormone and IGF-1 during aging and the consequences of growth hormone and IGF-1 deficiency for the aging individual. He was the first to report that growth hormone decreases with age in rodents (1980) and since that time he has published the seminal data that growth hormone and IGF-1 reverse the age-related decline in protein synthesis, and increase cognitive ability, neurogenesis, vascular density, blood flow, synaptic complexity, NMDA receptor density, and glucose metabolism in brain. Many of these findings on the effects of growth hormone and/or IGF-1 replacement have been subsequently confirmed in non-human primates and/or humans. The studies he conducts require the use of novel animal models that he has developed and validated to mimic human disease. This includes the use of transgenic animals and the use of specific viral vectors to increase (or decrease) gene expression in selected tissues and cells. Dr. Sonntag has a wealth of experience in teaching, training and research at multiple institutions. He graduated from Tufts University with a BS in Psychology and Chemistry and completed his PhD at Tulane University in Physiological Psychology. After a post-doctoral fellowship at Michigan State University with Dr. Joseph Meites in Neuroendocrinology, Dr. Sonntag spent 23 years (1985-2007) on the faculty at Wake Forest University. While at Wake Forest, he served as the Basic Science Director for Research at the Roena Kulynych Center for Memory and Cognition Research and the Director of Basic Science Research for the Sticht Center on Aging. During this time, he trained 11 graduate students, 4 post-doctoral fellows and mentored numerous junior faculty members. Since 1986, Dr. Sonntag has been continually funded by the National Institutes of Health and has served as a member of many NIH study sections and Special Emphasis Panels (SEPs), He has published over 270 original manuscripts and reviews related to aging. He is a Fellow of the Gerontological Society of America (GSA) and a member of the American Aging Association, Endocrine Society, American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and the Society for Neuroscience. He was elected Chair of the Biological Sciences Section of GSA (2011-2012) and was a member of many program committees at GSA. He also served as the Editor-in-Chief of Geroscience (the Official Journal of the American Aging Association) from 2016 to 2018. Dr. Sonntag was recruited to the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center in 2007 to be the founding Director of Reynolds Center on Aging. He has recruited many new faculty to the program and these recruitments contributed to the funding of the Oklahoma Nathan Shock Center. He is the Co-Director of the Geroscience T32 Training Program and Director of the Geroscience Center of Biological Research Excellence (CoBRE). He was subsequently named Chair of the Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology and Director of the Center for Geroscience and Healthy Brain Aging.




Health Education
  • Graduate School
  • Post Graduate Training in Neuroendocrinology Michigan State University
    East Lansing, MI
  • Physiological psychology, Neuroendocrinology Tulane University
    New Orleans, LA
  • Undergraduate School
  • Chemistry and Psychology Tufts University
    Medford, MA
Research Interests:
  • Brain aging
  • IGF-1
  • Cerebrovasculature aging
  • Learning and memory
  • Simultaneous assessment of cognitive function, circadian rhythm, and spontaneous activity in aging mice 2018
  • Insulin-like growth factor receptor signaling regulates working memory, mitochondrial metabolism, and amyloid-ß uptake in astrocytes 2018
  • Insulin-like growth factor-1 in CNS and cerebrovascular aging 2013
  • Whole brain radiation-induced impairments in learning and memory are time-sensitive and reversible by systemic hypoxia 2012
  • Growth hormone and insulin-like growth factor-1 modulate glucose metabolism and adenosine triphosphate levels in a model of adult-onset growth hormone deficiency 2006