Ronald J. Killiany, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Anatomy and Neurobiology at Boston University School of Medicine and in Environmental Health at Boston University School of Public Health


BU Profile

Dr. Killiany traces his academic lineage back to some of the founders of modern physiological psychology.


He completed a Bachelor’s degree in Physiological Psychology at John Carroll University, a Master’s degree in Physiological Psychology at The University of Hartford and his doctoral training in the Department of Psychology at Northeastern University working with Dr. Helen Mahut, Ph.D.  The focus of his doctoral thesis was on the development of recognition memory with an emphasis on the hippocampus.

He came to the Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology as a post-doctoral fellow on an NRSA training grant to study the cognitive changes associated with “normal” aging working with Drs. Moss, Rosene and Peters.  This work expanded into the study of cognitive changes associated with age and cerebrovascular disease.

While a post-doctoral fellow, Dr. Killiany underwent clinical training in Neuropsychology under the supervision of Dr. Roberta White, Ph.D.  At the completion of this training, he became licensed as a Neuropsychologist/health care provider in 1995.  He is clinically affiliated with Essex Neurological Associates where he routinely evaluates patients for memory loss and dementia.

Also, as a post-doctoral fellow and junior faculty member, Dr. Killiany underwent training in Alzheimer’s disease and Magnetic Resonance Imaging under the supervision of Dr. Marilyn Albert, Ph.D. then at Harvard Medical School.  While under Dr. Albert’s supervision, he worked with Dr. Franc Jolesz at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, where he gained experience with MRI equipment, sequence development and MRI sequence optimization.  At the same time, he worked in the Image Processing Laboratory at Brigham and Women’s hospital with Dr. Tamas Sandor and Dr. Ron Kikinis of the Surgical Planning Laboratory at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.  Through these experiences, he gained knowledge about basic MRI image processing and the value of optimizing MRI sequences for post-processing tools.  Later, Dr. Killiany worked with Drs. Dale and Fischl in the Martinos Center at Massachusetts General Hospital where he gained experience with the development and implementation of advanced forms of MRI sequences and image processing.  The work with Drs. Dale and Fischl led to the creation of the ever popular “Desikan-Killiany Freesurfer atlas” – a project that was led by Dr. Killiany’s MD/Ph.D. student Rahul Desikan.  These experiences culminated in Dr. Killiany serving as the principle investigator for an MRI Core of an NIH funded program project grant at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Dr. Killiany learned the business side of MRI from a private entrepreneur, Dr. Frank Hussey MD who at the time own “The MRI Centers of New England”.  Dr. Hussey’s guidance and knowledge paved the way for the creation of the Boston University Center for Biomedical Imaging.

Dr. Killiany continues to be high collaborative in his work.   He has been actively involved in the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI) since its preparation phase, in which he played an active role in helping to standardize the MRI sequences being used.  He is a collaborator on Framingham Heart Study grants, the Gulf War Illness consortium and a member of the clinical core of the Boston University Alzheimer’s Disease Center.  He and his students are actively engaged in studies targeted towards better understanding the process of normal aging, the pathway leading to dementia, biomarkers that can be used to identify diseases of aging such as Alzheimer’s disease, the role of factors such as inflammation or psychological factors in contributing to cognitive decline/dementia and mechanisms for altering, arresting or ameliorating the process leading to dementia.

Administrative duties:  Dr. Killiany serves as the Chairman of the Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology Qualifying Exam Committee and is a member of the Boston University Radiation Protection MRI subcommittee

Teaching:  Dr. Killiany participates in teaching the Medical Neuroscience class and he hosts a graduate seminar class on the Neurobiology of Aging.  In addition, he gives selected lectures in the Anatomy and Neurobiology Methods class and Learning and Memory class.