Magnetic resonance images (MRIs) were obtained from 25 patients with medically refractory epilepsy of temporal lobe origin (12 on the left, 13 on the right) and 14 right-handed control subjects. The hippocampi and temporal lobes were traced by computer on successive coronal images and the resulting measurements of area were summed for each region. The left and right hippocampi were symmetrical in the control subjects; however, for patients the hippocampus was smaller on the side of the seizure focus. Moreover, the left-right hippocampal ratio significantly differentiated the control subjects from each patient group. The left temporal lobe was significantly smaller than the right in control subjects. The epileptics' temporal lobes were smaller on the side of the seizure focus, compared to the temporal lobes in the control subjects. MRI hippocampal measurements were compared to hippocampal neuronal densities obtained postoperatively. Significant correlations were obtained between the ratio (side ipsilateral to focus/side contralateral to focus) of MRI hippocampal measurements and neuronal densities in all hippocampal subfields except CA2. Prior to surgery, patients were administered the Wechsler Memory Scale and the verbal Selective Reminding Test. Significant correlations existed between MRI measurements of the left hippocampus and the Wechsler logical memory percent retention scores and between the left temporal lobe measurements and the verbal Selective Reminding Test scores for patients with seizure foci in the left temporal lobe.