Sonja W. Scholz, M.D., Ph.D.

Lasker Clinical Research Scholar

Neurodegenerative Diseases Research Unit


Building 35, Room 1A-1000
35 Convent Drive
Bethesda, MD 20892-3707


Research Topics

Advances in genomic technologies have provided us with unprecedented capabilities to explore heritable factors involved in the development of neurological diseases. Neurogenetics has already revolutionized how we think about common neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer dementia and Parkinson disease.

We will now extend these powerful genomic techniques to other neurodegenerative diseases, such as Lewy body dementia, multiple system atrophy, frontotemporal dementia, progressive supranuclear palsy and corticobasal degeneration. A new laboratory has been established to achieve this aim, under the leadership of Dr. Sonja Scholz. This Neurodegenerative Diseases Research Unit is integrated within the Laboratory of Neurogenetics, a leader in this field over the last decade. Its primary mission is to unravel molecular genetic mechanisms that cause these devastating diseases. This knowledge identifies targets for drug development. To maximize our impact, we will build on our national and international collaborations, and we will leverage the unique resources within the Intramural Research Program at the NIH.

As part of this effort, we have established an atypical parkinsonism clinic at the NIH Clinical Center to study the natural history and molecular characteristics of patients suffering from these devastating conditions.


Dr. Scholz is a Neurologist and Neurogeneticist specialized in movement disorders. Shereceived her medical degree from the Medical University Innsbruck, Austria. Following graduation, she was a post-doctoral fellow at the Laboratory of Neurogenetics (NIA) under the supervision of Drs. Andrew Singleton and John Hardy. She obtained a Ph.D. in Neurogenomics from the University College London, UK in 2010. She then moved to Baltimore to complete her neurology residency training at Johns Hopkins. In 2015, Dr. Scholz received the McFarland Transition to Independence Award for Neurologist-Scientists.She is an Assistant Clinical Investigator within the Neurogenetics Branch (NINDS). Her laboratory focuses on identifying genetic causes of neurodegenerative diseases, such as dementia with Lewy bodies, multiple system atrophy, and frontotemporal dementia.

Selected Publications

  1. Geiger JT, Ding J, Crain B, Pletnikova O, Letson C, Dawson TM, Rosenthal LS, Pantelyat A, Gibbs JR, Albert MS, Hernandez DG, Hillis AE, Stone DJ, Singleton AB, North American Brain Expression Consortium., Hardy JA, Troncoso JC, Scholz SW. Next-generation sequencing reveals substantial genetic contribution to dementia with Lewy bodies. Neurobiol Dis. 2016;94:55-62.

  2. Sailer A, Scholz SW, Nalls MA, Schulte C, Federoff M, Price TR, Lees A, Ross OA, Dickson DW, Mok K, Mencacci NE, Schottlaender L, Chelban V, Ling H, O'Sullivan SS, Wood NW, Traynor BJ, Ferrucci L, Federoff HJ, Mhyre TR, Morris HR, Deuschl G, Quinn N, Widner H, Albanese A, Infante J, Bhatia KP, Poewe W, Oertel W, Höglinger GU, Wüllner U, Goldwurm S, Pellecchia MT, Ferreira J, Tolosa E, Bloem BR, Rascol O, Meissner WG, Hardy JA, Revesz T, Holton JL, Gasser T, Wenning GK, Singleton AB, Houlden H, European Multiple System Atrophy Study Group and the UK Multiple System Atrophy Study Group.. A genome-wide association study in multiple system atrophy. Neurology. 2016;87(15):1591-1598.

  3. Scholz SW, Houlden H, Schulte C, Sharma M, Li A, Berg D, Melchers A, Paudel R, Gibbs JR, Simon-Sanchez J, Paisan-Ruiz C, Bras J, Ding J, Chen H, Traynor BJ, Arepalli S, Zonozi RR, Revesz T, Holton J, Wood N, Lees A, Oertel W, Wüllner U, Goldwurm S, Pellecchia MT, Illig T, Riess O, Fernandez HH, Rodriguez RL, Okun MS, Poewe W, Wenning GK, Hardy JA, Singleton AB, Del Sorbo F, Schneider S, Bhatia KP, Gasser T. SNCA variants are associated with increased risk for multiple system atrophy. Ann Neurol. 2009;65(5):610-4.

  4. Simón-Sánchez J, Schulte C, Bras JM, Sharma M, Gibbs JR, Berg D, Paisan-Ruiz C, Lichtner P, Scholz SW, Hernandez DG, Krüger R, Federoff M, Klein C, Goate A, Perlmutter J, Bonin M, Nalls MA, Illig T, Gieger C, Houlden H, Steffens M, Okun MS, Racette BA, Cookson MR, Foote KD, Fernandez HH, Traynor BJ, Schreiber S, Arepalli S, Zonozi R, Gwinn K, van der Brug M, Lopez G, Chanock SJ, Schatzkin A, Park Y, Hollenbeck A, Gao J, Huang X, Wood NW, Lorenz D, Deuschl G, Chen H, Riess O, Hardy JA, Singleton AB, Gasser T. Genome-wide association study reveals genetic risk underlying Parkinson's disease. Nat Genet. 2009;41(12):1308-12.

This page was last updated on February 19th, 2021