The fornix in health and disease: an imaging review

Radiographics. Jul-Aug 2011;31(4):1107-21. doi: 10.1148/rg.314105729.


The fornix is a discrete white matter tract bundle that is critical for normal cognitive functioning. Although clearly visualized at magnetic resonance imaging, its involvement in pathologic processes is often overlooked. Certain disease processes show a predilection for involvement of the fornix; in other pathologic conditions, its involvement is a rare but recognized finding. As part of the Papez circuit, it is critical in formation of memory, with damage or disease resulting in anterograde amnesia. Many different pathologic conditions can affect the fornix. Midline tumors such as gliomas or lymphoma can infiltrate it. As part of the limbic system, it may be affected by herpes simplex encephalitis. Involvement by inflammatory conditions such as multiple sclerosis may illustrate its importance in global cognitive function. An appreciation of forniceal atrophy may aid in assessment of mesial temporal sclerosis. Metabolic conditions such as Wernicke encephalopathy have been reported to involve it. The original discoveries of its role in memory arose from surgical trauma, but as a midline structure, it is susceptible to the shearing forces of diffuse axonal injury. Infarction of the fornix is rare but can result in acute amnesic syndromes. Its role in degenerative conditions such as Alzheimer disease and psychiatric conditions such as schizophrenia is a topic of research interest. Recognition of involvement of the fornix by various pathologic processes may aid in explaining the troubling clinical symptoms of amnesia.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain Diseases / pathology*
  • Fornix, Brain / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Nerve Fibers, Myelinated / pathology*
  • Nervous System Diseases / pathology*