Histology-derived volumetric annotation of the human hippocampal subfields in postmortem MRI

Neuroimage. 2014 Jan 1:84:505-23. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2013.08.067. Epub 2013 Sep 12.


Recently, there has been a growing effort to analyze the morphometry of hippocampal subfields using both in vivo and postmortem magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). However, given that boundaries between subregions of the hippocampal formation (HF) are conventionally defined on the basis of microscopic features that often lack discernible signature in MRI, subfield delineation in MRI literature has largely relied on heuristic geometric rules, the validity of which with respect to the underlying anatomy is largely unknown. The development and evaluation of such rules are challenged by the limited availability of data linking MRI appearance to microscopic hippocampal anatomy, particularly in three dimensions (3D). The present paper, for the first time, demonstrates the feasibility of labeling hippocampal subfields in a high resolution volumetric MRI dataset based directly on microscopic features extracted from histology. It uses a combination of computational techniques and manual post-processing to map subfield boundaries from a stack of histology images (obtained with 200μm spacing and 5μm slice thickness; stained using the Kluver-Barrera method) onto a postmortem 9.4Tesla MRI scan of the intact, whole hippocampal formation acquired with 160μm isotropic resolution. The histology reconstruction procedure consists of sequential application of a graph-theoretic slice stacking algorithm that mitigates the effects of distorted slices, followed by iterative affine and diffeomorphic co-registration to postmortem MRI scans of approximately 1cm-thick tissue sub-blocks acquired with 200μm isotropic resolution. These 1cm blocks are subsequently co-registered to the MRI of the whole HF. Reconstruction accuracy is evaluated as the average displacement error between boundaries manually delineated in both the histology and MRI following the sequential stages of reconstruction. The methods presented and evaluated in this single-subject study can potentially be applied to multiple hippocampal tissue samples in order to construct a histologically informed MRI atlas of the hippocampal formation.

Keywords: Hippocampus; Histology; MRI; Postmortem; Reconstruction; Subfields.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Algorithms*
  • Autopsy / methods*
  • Female
  • Hippocampus / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Image Enhancement / methods
  • Image Interpretation, Computer-Assisted / methods*
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional / methods*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Postmortem Changes*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sensitivity and Specificity