Sagvolden"s research career started with his work for his Doctor of Philosophy, which he obtained in 1979 from the University of Oslo based on a thesis entitled Behavioral Changes in Rats with Septal Lesions: Effects of Water-Deprivation Level and Intensity of Electrical Shocks.
Sagvolden is best known for the discovery that the SHR rat strain is hyperactive. Over the next decades, he then went on to demonstrate that this strain is a valid animal model for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). Subsequently, Sagvolden also showed that the WKY/NCrl rat strain showed inattention, but no impulsivity or hyperactivity, and validated this strain as an animal model of inattentive Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Over the course of his career, Sagvolden worked not only with rats, but also with humans and pigeons.
Sagvolden was the founding editor-in-chief of the scientific journal Behavioral and Brain Functions, from the time of its establishment in 2005 to his death in 2011.
In 1989 he co-edited, together with Trevor Archer, a book summarizing current research on Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, followed in 1998 by a special issue on Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder for Behavioural Brain
Sagvolden was a member at large of the executive committee of the European Brain and Behaviour Society from 1986-1989 and its secretary from 1990 to 1995. Over the last two decades of his life, he was an active supporter of the Society of Neuroscientists of Africa (SONA) and in 1993 played a significant role in its founding.
In 2000, Sagvolden organized the first International Brain Research Organization school in Africa at the University of the North (Pietersburg, South Africa). In addition, Sagvolden was one of the "founding fathers" of the Federation of European Neuroscience Societies, where he represented Norway on the council from the foundation of the federation until his death.
Outside of the scientific community, Sagvolden was also active in local politics.
In 2003, he was one of the top five candidates to run for mayor.
Member Norwegian Neurosci. Society (president since 1999), European Neurosci. Society, European Brain and Behaviour Society (secretary 1989-1995), European Network on Hyperkinetic Disorders (committee member since 1990), International Brain Research Organization (delegate to governing council 1989-1991).
Married Liv Borgersen, June 29, 1968. Children: Geir, Espen.