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Neuroimage. 2009 Oct 1;47(4):1185-95. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2009.05.019. Epub 2009 May 15.

Defining the human hippocampus in cerebral magnetic resonance images--an overview of current segmentation protocols.

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Department of Psychiatry, University of Münster, Münster, Germany.


Due to its crucial role for memory processes and its relevance in neurological and psychiatric disorders, the hippocampus has been the focus of neuroimaging research for several decades. In vivo measurement of human hippocampal volume and shape with magnetic resonance imaging has become an important element of neuroimaging research. Nevertheless, volumetric findings are still inconsistent and controversial for many psychiatric conditions including affective disorders. Here we review the wealth of anatomical protocols for the delineation of the hippocampus in MR images, taking into consideration 71 different published protocols from the neuroimaging literature, with an emphasis on studies of affective disorders. We identified large variations between protocols in five major areas. 1) The inclusion/exclusion of hippocampal white matter (alveus and fimbria), 2) the definition of the anterior hippocampal-amygdala border, 3) the definition of the posterior border and the extent to which the hippocampal tail is included, 4) the definition of the inferior medial border of the hippocampus, and 5) the use of varying arbitrary lines. These are major sources of variance between different protocols. In contrast, the definitions of the lateral, superior, and inferior borders are less disputed. Directing resources to replication studies that incorporate characteristics of the segmentation protocols presented herein may help resolve seemingly contradictory volumetric results between prior neuroimaging studies and facilitate the appropriate selection of protocols for manual or automated delineation of the hippocampus for future research purposes.

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