Atrophy patterns in Alzheimer's disease and semantic dementia: a comparison of FreeSurfer and manual volumetric measurements

Neuroimage. 2010 Feb 1;49(3):2264-74. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2009.10.056. Epub 2009 Oct 27.


Alzheimer's disease (AD) and semantic dementia (SD) are characterized by different patterns of global and temporal lobe atrophy which can be studied using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Manual delineation of regions of interest is time-consuming. FreeSurfer is a freely available automated technique which has a facility to label cortical and subcortical brain regions automatically. As with all automated techniques comparison with existing methods is important. Eight temporal lobe structures in each hemisphere were delineated using FreeSurfer and compared with manual segmentations in 10 control, 10 AD, and 10 SD subjects. The reproducibility errors for the manual segmentations ranged from 3% to 6%. Differences in protocols between the two methods led to differences in absolute volumes with the greatest differences between methods found bilaterally in the hippocampus, entorhinal cortex and fusiform gyrus (p<0.005). However, good correlations between the methods were found for most regions, with the highest correlations shown for the ventricles, whole brain and left medial-inferior temporal gyrus (r>0.9), followed by the bilateral amygdala and hippocampus, left superior temporal gyrus, right medial-inferior temporal gyrus and left temporal lobe (r>0.8). Overlap ratios differed between methods bilaterally in the amygdala, superior temporal gyrus, temporal lobe, left fusiform gyrus and right parahippocampal gyrus (p<0.01). Despite differences in protocol and volumes, both methods showed similar atrophy patterns in the patient groups compared with controls, and similar right-left differences, suggesting that both methods accurately distinguish between the three groups.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease / pathology*
  • Atrophy / pathology
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Female
  • Frontotemporal Lobar Degeneration / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Image Interpretation, Computer-Assisted / methods*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged