Histopathological studies and animal models suggest that different physiological and pathophysiological processes exert different subfield specific effects on the hippocampus. High-resolution images at 4T depict details of the internal structure of the hippocampus allowing for in vivo volumetry of hippocampal subfields. The aims of this study were (1) to determine patterns of hippocampal subfield volume loss due to normal aging and Apo e4 carrier state, (2) to determine subfield specific volume losses due to preclinical (MCI) and clinical Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and their modification due to age and Apo e4 carrier state. One hundred fifty seven subjects (119 cognitively healthy elderly controls, 20 MCI and 18 AD) were studied with a high resolution T2 weighted imaging sequence obtained at 4T aimed at the hippocampus. Apo e4 carrier state was known in 95 subjects (66 controls, 14 MCI, 15 AD). Subiculum (SUB), CA1, CA1–CA2 transition zone (CA1–2 transition), CA3- dentate gyrus (CA3&DG) were manually marked. Multiple linear regression analysis was used to test for effects of age, Apo e4 carrier state and effects of MCI and AD on different hippocampal subfields. Age had a significant negative effect on CA1 and CA3&DG volumes in controls (P < 0.05). AD had significantly smaller volumes of SUB, CA1, CA1–2 transition, and MCI had smaller CA1–2 transition volumes than controls (P < 0.05). Apo e4 carrier state was associated with volume loss in CA3&DG compared to non-Apo e4 carriers in healthy controls and AD. Based on these findings, we conclude that subfield volumetry provides regional selective information that allows to distinguish between different normal and pathological processes affecting the hippocampus and thus for an improved differential diagnosis of neurodegenerative diseases affecting the hippocampus.
Keywords: CA1, dentate, volumetry, neurodegeneration, MCI