Dr. Savoy received his academic training in applied mathematics at MIT (BS 1971; MS 1975) and experimental psychology at Harvard University (PhD 1980). This period included 10 years of work at Polaroid Corporation’s Vision Research Laboratory, after which he joined the newly formed Rowland Institute for Science, under the direction of the late Edwin Land, in 1981. In 1991 he first learned of the revolutionary work being conducted at the Massachusetts General Hospital’s Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) Center, using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to detect changes in neural activity (via the associated hemodynamic changes in blood flow, blood volume, and blood oxygenation level dependent (i.e., BOLD) contrast mechanisms). In 1993 Dr. Savoy joined that group and became the Director of Functional MRI Education in 1994. He has conducted fMRI training workshops regularly at the MGH NMR Center several times per year since 1994, attracting thousands of researchers from around the world. In addition, he has run similar programs at conferences and at other institutions in the United States, Europe, Asia and Australia. Dr. Savoy’s fMRI-based research interests are wide-ranging, including temporal resolution of functional MRI, stereopsis, language, American Sign Language, decision making, multivariate analysis, and dissociative identity disorder (multiple personalities). Dr. Savoy’s current primary activity is teaching, although he also conducts some research and is a research consultant for various investigators. In recent years he has developed two additions to the training programs a the Athinoula A. Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging, associated with MGH, MIT and Harvard. One program is a two-week-long multi-modality workshop (started in 2007); and the other is on connectivity issues using both structural (diffusion-based) and functional (BOLD-based) MRI (started in 2012). Dr. Savoy has academic appoints at Harvard Medical School, Boston University, Massachusetts General Hospital and the University of Zagreb in Croatia.

Dr. Savoy has always taken particular interest in explaining the most complex of technical and scientific ideas to a wide range of audiences. Functional Brain Imaging is certainly based on complicated technologies, but there are a number of unifying and relatively simple underlying ideas. For a general audience, the focus is usually on the various ways in which functional brain imaging is being used to address long-standing questions in psychology, ethics and medicine. For a more technical audience, the emphasis is on supplying enough information to start designing and analyzing experiments.

In both cases, there is a clear focus on the overall scientific and social challenges, such as: “How can we evaluate and integrate the thousands of technical and popular reports coming from the world of functional brain imaging into a useful and believable overview of brain function that is scientifically valid? How does this information affect our daily interactions, as well as our activities in the context of legal and medical decision making?”


PhD in Experimental Psychology, Harvard University

Select Publications

1. Savoy RL, Frederick BB, Keuroghlian AS, Wolk PC. Voluntary switching between identities in dissociative identity disorder: A functional MRI case study. Cogn Neurosci. 2012;3(2):112-9. Officially published online: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/17588928.2012.669750

2. Savoy RL. Experimental design in brain activation MRI: cautionary tales. Brain Res Bull. 2005 Nov 15;67(5):361-7.

3. Savoy RL. Using small numbers of subjects in fMRI-based research. IEEE Eng Med Biol Mag. 2006 Mar-Apr;25(2):52-9.


Functional Brain Imaging educational workshops at MGH and around the world, numbering more than 100.