Segmenting subregions of the human hippocampus on structural magnetic resonance image scans: An illustrated tutorial

Brain Neurosci Adv. 2017 Apr 6;1:2398212817701448. doi: 10.1177/2398212817701448. eCollection 2017.


Background: The hippocampus plays a central role in cognition, and understanding the specific contributions of its subregions will likely be key to explaining its wide-ranging functions. However, delineating substructures within the human hippocampus in vivo from magnetic resonance image scans is fraught with difficulties. To our knowledge, the extant literature contains only brief descriptions of segmentation procedures used to delineate hippocampal subregions in magnetic resonance imaging/functional magnetic resonance imaging studies.

Methods: Consequently, here we provide a clear, step-by-step and fully illustrated guide to segmenting hippocampal subregions along the entire length of the human hippocampus on 3T magnetic resonance images.

Results: We give a detailed description of how to segment the hippocampus into the following six subregions: dentate gyrus/Cornu Ammonis 4, CA3/2, CA1, subiculum, pre/parasubiculum and the uncus. Importantly, this in-depth protocol incorporates the most recent cyto- and chemo-architectural evidence and includes a series of comprehensive figures which compare slices of histologically stained tissue with equivalent 3T images.

Conclusion: As hippocampal subregion segmentation is an evolving field of research, we do not suggest this protocol is definitive or final. Rather, we present a fully explained and expedient method of manual segmentation which remains faithful to our current understanding of human hippocampal neuroanatomy. We hope that this 'tutorial'-style guide, which can be followed by experts and non-experts alike, will be a practical resource for clinical and research scientists with an interest in the human hippocampus.

Keywords: Hippocampus; high-resolution; histology; magnetic resonance imaging; segmentation; subfields.